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?