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.