The Best Laid Plans

My older daughter has been diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder & Generalized Anxiety Disorder. She will be 10 years old in July. Lakin has always been a challenging child, warm and sweet one minute and raging like a bull in a china shop the next, with no provocation needed to set her off.

We made the decision in Fall 2009 to try medicating her, after a particularly trying month that culminated with her talking about running away and wanting to die. I couldn’t handle that in my then-8 year old, so I caved on my anti-pharmaceutical stance and agreed to take her to a psychiatrist. It was then that she was diagnosed, though honestly, we already suspected what the doctors would say. I have bipolar I disorder and anxiety issues myself, and I could see much of myself in my daughter.

She has done well, for the most part, on the medications. It was a battle at first, that usual game of try this one, no try that one, maybe a little higher dose, now it might be too high… a game that I have hated every minute of, because I can’t shake the feeling that we’re screwing around with my child’s brain development in a scary way.

In April, while house sitting for a friend, David & I watched a documentary called Generation RX, directed by Kevin P. Miller, which chronicles the “drugging of children for profit”. It’s nothing I didn’t already believe, but it upset me a lot, hearing & seeing the inability of major pharmaceutical executives to explain some of the decisions that have been made in regards to rampantly medicating children with drugs that specifically state that they are not intended for people under age 18.

My fear is that, if Lakin is medicated from age 8 until she’s an adult, those drugs will affect her brain in such a way that she will be incapable of ever being unmedicated. I don’t want to sentence my child to a life of pharmaceutical enslavement, if it isn’t absolutely necessary. We consulted with her psychiatrist, who begrudgingly agreed to “allow” me to take her off the meds and “see how it goes”.

We stepped her down slowly. These drugs are serious and stopping them immediately can cause all sorts of side effects, including seizures, insomnia, hallucinations and delusions. She came off of them and seemed to be doing well. Better in fact, than I had seen her in a long time. I felt confident in our decision to take her off the medications.

Two weeks went by and all seemed fine. She was a little more emotional, but not in a bad way. Then, as though a switch was flipped, she was anything but fine. She was angry at everything and nothing. She screamed, cried and ranted. She became violent toward all of us, lashing out at every perceived injustice. We work very hard to be as fair as possible in our discipline of both kids, but a simple demand to “take some time to yourself in your room until you calm down” would escalate into a screaming tantrum, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since Lakin went on medication in the first place.

I have been forced to admit that my child needs to be medicated, at least at this point in her life. I hate it, but I hate the unhappiness and unexplained anger in her face even more. She is about halfway back up to her full dose right now, and I can already see that she is calmer and less impulsive. I know that should make me feel better, and it does, somewhat, but I can’t help but hope that I’m making the right choices for her.

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I'm Heather, a married mama of two teen girls, a stillborn baby girl (7/1/12), and a sweet and wild preschool girl (4/2/14). I've been blogging at The Destiny Manifest since 2001. I like to write about appreciating all of the beautiful little things that surround us, particularly in the face of grief, infant loss and mental health issues. Every day is an adventure!

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  • marcelle

    My older sister, who is adopted, was diagnosed many years ago with manic-depression/bi-polar and it has been very difficult many years. This was all when she was an adult and I wonder if they had knowledge of this in the 70’s and’80’s, how much easier her life may have been. She could never hold a job for any length of time and always ending with yelling-their fault. Very high high’s and low low’s. And, for period of times, she would think she could go without meds, which is what I have come to know alot of people diagnosed do – because they start to feel better. SHe dropped out of school young and had a series of partly self created hardships. I wonder if she had been diagnosed young and medicated, would her path have been different? She has since over the years, come to realize that the meds are necessary to make her somewhat even-keel. While she cannot take the stress of real work, she has gone back to school to get a degree and does really well. SHe is an environmentalist in Montana and is about to own her own home. We continue to pray for her and that life keeps on this track for her.
    Thank you for sharing your story and good luck, and prayers to you…
    Marcelle

  • “I do believe there are a lot of children on medication now who need
    attention, affection, discipline, or communication instead of drugs.”

    Yes,
    I wholeheartedly agree. I only wish that my daughter’s issues were
    something that I could address with attention, affection, discipline or
    communication. It makes me sad (and angry) to see how many children are
    medicated without their parents even trying other options.

    Thank
    you so very much for what you’ve said Melissa. I wasn’t sure if I
    wanted to put my daughter’s issues *out there*, for fear of judgement I
    suppose. I am glad that I did, however, as these comments have really
    made me feel better about the choices I’ve made so far for Lakin.

  • Thank you for sharing your sister’s story, Marcelle. I appreciate it
    very much. As an adult with bipolar/anxiety, who has tried being
    medicated and unmedicated, I know just how difficult it can be to
    maintain “normal” – jobs, relationships, school, everything. I wish you
    and your sister all the best of luck and love.

  • I completely feel that resentment that my child needs more help than I
    can provide her. I have gone through many phases of “this is my fault
    because I passed my disorder on to her”, as well as anger towards her
    father, for leaving my husband and I to sort out the many issues that
    crop up and try to maintain a normal family life, in spite of Lakin’s
    highs and lows.

    It makes me feel better, though it feels
    selfish to say, that other people have gone and are going through the
    same things. I feel less alone, and that means a great deal, because I
    often feel that I have no where to turn when things get really bad with
    her. Thank you Crystal. 🙂