Thursday, April 22, 2010

Opening a Can of Worms

Well, it seems as if I got myself tangled in an online anti-psychiatry "discussion". Now I know never ever to do that again. The reason I commented in the first place was because I'm so tired of parents being displayed as "manipulated by TV commercials", pawns the doctors use to get paid by pharmaceutical companies, or "duped" into believing anything anyone says about their child. As if we don't have a brain in our heads! As if we don't know every inch of our children inside and out!

It would have helped their cause if they had been raising a child with mental illness. Or at least empathetic to those who are (or if since they don't believe in childhood MI, at least that our children are difficult and exhausting). The blog in which the debate started was at Raising Bipolar. I respect Meg because she balances caution with realism. Yes, none of us wants our child to be on medication. Or to even present symptoms that need medication. But what these anti-psychiatry pushers don't understand, because they aren't living it, is how heart-breaking it is to see your child living a nightmare. And maybe, if they don't have kids at all, they don't understand how we would do anything to protect our children because it is our natural instinct to do so.

I asked what the alternative to medication is. When you have a child displaying concerning symptoms, when they are struggling day to day just to function, if we don't use medication to help them stabilize, what should we do?

Mostly I received lots of vague and generalized suggestions.

One of which was therapy. Yes, therapy absolutely has it's place in the mental health world. And Taz does go to play therapy 1/2 hour a week... and plays with puppets. He's four! How much therapy can a four year old take?

Dh and I have been taught how to use therapeutic techniques in working with him. But as one of the anti-medication commenters pointed out, it takes a lot of time. Time that Taz does not have. He is only four once. He only has one childhood to live. If I felt that medication was taking that childhood away from him, causing "cognitive dulling" as one put it, you can bet your a$ I would take him off immediately. But, unfortunately for the anti-whatever crowd, it is helping him.

I don't think of medication as a quick fix. I think Taz will need it for the long term. But if, as a teenager or older, he would like to try using therapy to deal with his symptoms without medication, I will be more than supportive. But as he gets older, he will (hopefully) gain the ability to use introspection to guide his decisions. At four, I mean come on, his life revolves around cars and worms!

And I'm curious as to how the anti-medication crowd would use therapy to help a child have consistent sleep patterns? Last I knew REM sleep has to do with brain chemistry. It has a biological base. Is that okay to treat with medication since sleep deprivation is so detrimental to physical health? Or should we let our young children live on insignificant amounts of a very important part of our health and well-being? After all, during certain REM cycles is when growth hormones are released. Potentially, our children could be stunted physically by not intervening with sleep disorders. Is there a place for medication in that scenario? If so, why not for other brain chemistry issues? Ah well. I guess I'll never know.

Anyway, I didn't get much out of the debate, except maybe a harder look at Taz and his options. And maybe even greater confirmation that we are doing the right thing. Because when it comes down to it, I have to do something. I can't wait around for him to be old enough for the correct therapy while he loses his childhood to rage and depression.

Someone also mentioned RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), which is treated with intensive therapy and can overlap with bipolar symptoms. It can also be common for children who've been adopted out of not-so-great environments. We looked good and hard at this disorder to see if Taz fits. And he just doesn't. The key ingredients for a RAD kid are; pushing away significant relationships, no discernment between strangers and family, lacking empathy, inability to give or receive love, controlling, lying and manipulative behaviors (Taz has no ability to do either), not being genuine or real in emotional engagement, and passive aggression. Taz lacks all of these traits. Really the only thing he has in common with a RAD kid is that he is defiant, moody, and violent, which is also part of bipolar. Taz has a very appropriate relationship with us, as his parents. He comes to us for comfort, he is wary of strangers, and he has the ability to show true love and affection with us. Sure, he's a little over-dependent, that could be a result of anxiety or bipolar or his early childhood. But it's nowhere near the same as full-blown RAD.

Maybe if the shoe was on the other foot, if these naysayers had a child with "issues", they would choose to allow that child to suffer while attempting every other resources except the one thing that could help, medication. But for me, I'm choosing life. And I don't mean that he would die without medication (although some do), I mean that his quality of life might be decreased. Maybe if I wasn't willing to take the risk and try medication Taz would go on to live a long life with no health complications. Maybe. But what's the point of life without happiness?


  1. I look at it from the kid's standpoint. I've mentioned one child in particular in my comments on this blog. He used to cower in the corner if we missed a dose of his meds. He'd start acting out, he'd be removed from the room, we'd be talking and then a light would dawn, "we forgot meds today didn't we?" and I'd grab the child and we'd literally skip down to the office to get them. Situation solved. The meds LET HIM CONTROL HIMSELF. can't stress that enough. They allowed him to be his real self.

    One day he came in and he was being amazing. Behaving, impulse control, SO happy with himself. He had a great day. We got a call around lunch time. Both mom and dad gave him meds this morning. He was double dosed. That was the aha moment for me. Meds matter SO much. This kid showed me that.

    People can say they hate meds, that we're being duped, but if you saw this kid, you'd know that it wasn't 'big bad pharma' making a buck. These meds were making a tangible difference in his life.

    Also side note: as someone with OCD I gotta say, meds saved my life. I honestly think I would have tried to hurt myself or would have had to drop out of college if I hadn't begun meds. The ocd was taking over my life and basically trapping me in my room and my brain. It was awful. I'm in therapy too, but therapy can't correct a brain imbalance!

  2. I would not wish Childhood Bipolar on any child. These naysayers are welcome to come to my home and witness a true bipolar child. Did meds 'fix' him? No! But he can at least go outside and play by himself now, make friends at school and have little boy fun. Some symptoms are still there and we can live with them. He can function with them as long as he has supports in place and his parents to love him. We medicated for several reasons; the main one being "Kindling".

    Seeing a very young child in a major depression is one thing I pray nobody has to witness. That (to me) is the worst symptom of all. I can't begin to explain what that looks like.

    I am assuming these naysayers have no mental illness in their families? I hope not if you are planning on having children.

  3. It reminds me of other lists I've been on, where people talked about having 'high needs' kids, and other people telling them over and over that all the kids problems were just because the parent wasnt being strict enough . . . and then a few years later, this person has a 'high needs' kid, and comes back, saying, "I was wrong, how do you do it?"

    There are scary things that happen w meds - some kids get put in hospitals and drugged in to sedated states; bipolar kids get misdiagnosed as adhd and put in to manic episodes from the wrong drugs.

    But my son, after purposefully skipping his meds for a few days, a few times, now is very clear about it - when he doesnt take his meds, he is unhappy and he gets in a lot of trouble (cant control himself). He WANTS to take his meds. And yes, we have managed to lower some, because of the lower stress of home schooling.

    But yes, we need to learn to walk away from conversations which do nothing to build us up or support us. They are just hot air, arguing without real knowledge or facts. Learn to recognize them and run away asap.

  4. You mentioned a common myth that our kids become dulled due to the meds they are taking. But if they saw what we see they would be surprised to see that it is actually the opposite. For us, meds have given our son his life back, he is more vibrant than ever before, communicates like never before and experiences joy he hasn't felt in the last two years. If only the "people" saw this, they would have a whole new outlook on medicating ill children. I know Taz is still so young. But my son at 9 years can tell us in detail that the medicine has made his life better.

  5. You are hanging tough on my site Taz's Mom! Speak your truth, girl. Only you know what is right for your son and your family. I appreciate you hanging in there. You offer a great perspective and bring well thought out comments to the discussion.

  6. I watched the debate unfold at Meg's site, and I've watched it happen in other places at other times. What has always been most frustrating for me is the assumptions that we (parents of kids with mental illness and/or parents who medicate) are fools, that we think meds are harmless, and that we believe meds will be a magic bullet.

    I always have to take a deep breath and remember that the naysayers weren't here when my husband and I stayed up late night after night after night, researching, talking, reading, and agonizing over the decision of use medicine. They don't see the many, many non-med interventions we use to help Carter. They don't know that we're well-educated, cautious, and informed. And even if they DID know all those things, they are anti-psychiatry idealogues who aren't interested in any of that.

    Fortunately, we have lots of opportunities to create a different kind of community. I'd like to think that most of us, in this little group of bloggers and others who are raising kids with MI, know how to disagree respectfully. There's so much value in that, so much to learn from each other's differing viewpoints and experience, that I get scared. When I see attacks on blogs, I worry that the blogger will get fed up and shut it down. When that happens, it narrows my community and it makes me mad!

    Enough from me? Yes, I think so. Hang tough, Taz's Mama!

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  8. ...they're not really discussions, and definitely never "debates". Generally, on comment strings like the one on Meg's blog from a few days ago, it's cut-and-paste repetitive anger.

    I find most -- not all, but most -- of the anti-med/psychiatry bloggers are very honestly angry at something, and have grasped onto the ideas of people like Peter Breggin and others because the philosophy's they have are easy to repeat, which means they'll never let them go because of it.

    But their anger is completely out of proportion to what's really going on. To them we're deluded, and the only way to fix us is to write aggressively in ALL CAPS and threaten us every chance they can.

    The only people I've ever encountered online who are as aggressive and over-the-top in their hostility as the 'anti-people', was during President Bush's administration.