It’s been two months or so since I blogged. My apologies for that. Life went nuts, as life will do. But I promised you my personal story of childhood meds, didn’t I? Maybe that’s why I’ve been avoiding blogging. Because it’s a big huge thing for me to discuss. Well, that, and the busted internet connection followed by busted computer, lather, rinse, repeat. Technology and I? We’re not the best of friends most days.
So, I guess I will start in the early 1980’s. I was in kindergarten or first grade when I was diagnosed with ADHD and put on Ritalin. My parents did everything right. They really did. There was not as much “generally accepted” information then as there is today. Today, it seems that most parents (at least in my circles, but then, I guess I tend to travel in a lot of “crunchy, hippie mom” circles! That’s just odd!!) are skeptical of the “standard” medical approach of giving kids ritalin, adderal, strattera, vyvanse, and MAYBE some talk-therapy down the road. Most of the moms I know THESE DAYS try everything else first. We’re the GAPS loons, the Feingolders, the crazy, homeopathic quack-factories our grandparents warned us about. And we’re proud of it, because it’s working. But that just wasn’t what you DID back then – anymore than most moms were rushing out to join a La Leche League or an organic CSA. Lack of awareness? I don’t know. But regardless, in the mid-1980’s, the answer to ADHD was ALWAYS Ritalin. My folks went way above and beyond though, and also enlisted the help of a series of fantastic child psychologists, play groups, etc to help us learn coping skills and ways to manage the disorder rather than just treat the symptoms.
While I don’t remember it, my mom recalls this period of my life as very tumultuous. She really describes my time off of Ritalin (so, what? EVERY afternoon?) as pretty bad – tantrums, crying fits, screaming, self-harming behavior. Sadly, the last part I DO remember. I remember feeling totally out of control and hating myself for feeling that way. I felt like if I could adequately punish myself for being such a failure, for feeling out of control, for needing meds, for being unable to complete simple tasks, and for just being ME, that maybe it would go away. I won’t go into the details. But it lasted into my twenties, and I have scars. I think, from a young age, I really, genuinely hated myself. I wasn’t angry at the people around me. I was angry at ME. And I took it out on me pretty violently.
Over the years, I went off of the ADHD meds. I don’t honestly remember how THAT went either. Frankly, a lot of my formative years are pretty hazy to me. But let’s just move on forward to the mid-1990’s, where things get really dark, and I admit, in public, things I have never told most people. A few know. I’ve discussed it with my priest. But this is my raw, real, honest moment, and it’s UGLY.
In 1995, I finished middle school. I had my first real date. I had my first kiss. My best, and for years my ONLY friend died. I aged out of the youth choir that had basically been my entire life since fourth grade. I had major surgery to correct an eye muscle problem. I had to have my dog (who had been in the family longer than I had!) put to sleep. I started high school. And I was a nerd. A chubby, frizzy-haired, four-eyed, friendless nerd. In a huge new school. When someone at my LAST school had told me that they wished I had died when my friend did. I didn’t really fit in anywhere. Not at church. Not at school. Not in extracurricular activities. I just felt lost. And alone. And depressed. I reached out to a few people, but you know how kids are. So, the bullying got worse. The ADHD got worse. The depressed feelings (though I don’t want to say “depression” because I believe now that it was situational more than chemical) got worse. It just escalated.
I finally began to see a psychologist. Then a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist put me on zoloft, which was awful. It’s been black boxed now, and has been deemed UNSAFE for adolescents because it can cause psychoses, suicidal actions, and a host of other lovelies. And it did. I went from “troubled” to “psychotic” with seriously full-on “hearing voices” and night terrors. I went into these states where…….. It’s hard to explain. But it was like I was trying to crawl into myself and just hide. But I couldn’t. And I was freaked out. So I couldn’t move. I couldn’t function. I couldn’t really speak or interact with people. But I could – and did – chew holes in my hands that were terrible and messy. I still have scars. And that? It made the bullying WORSE. And it made me feel MORE isolated and alone and now CRAZY on top of it. So they put me on antipsychotics. But those made my insomnia MUCH worse. So they put me on sleeping pills. And those gave me horrific recurring nightmares.
And on, and on, it cycled and cycled.
Until just before my sixteenth birthday, when I took all my pills.
I don’t think I really wanted to die. I just wanted the hurt to stop. I wanted it to be over. I couldn’t do it anymore, and I was desperate.
Thank God I realized what I had done, and I told my mother who was able to get me to the hospital in time.
If not wanting to die isn’t enough of a deterrent, I promise you, having your stomach pumped and then pumped full of activated charcoal is enough. I never want to go through anything like that again. Ever. And not just because I am so thankful to be alive.
But it didn’t get better. I still had to go to school and face people. Until my parents agreed to keep me home and let me go on a “hospital/home bound” program for the rest of the year. Still isolated. Still miserable. Still on meds, this time Paxil, which has ALSO since been black boxed.
I spent the next year in a private school, which was just as terrible. I took myself off of drugs the next summer. I won’t get into the story there. It wasn’t good, and I ran away from home during that time. But when I was home, and off the drugs, I started to recover somewhat. I finished high school. I worked. I had a somewhat normal life. I still have issues. Some people think it’s the ADHD and/or depression (folks, I do not believe that I have depression. I believe that I have a heck of a lot of stress, and get depressed SITUATIONALLY. Depression is a very real, clinical, chemical illness, and it’s not something that I believe that I have.). I have also had doctors suggest that some of my “issues” may be related to the string of black-boxed drugs I spent my formative years taking. I can’t change things, so I won’t dwell on it too much. I do my best. I pray a LOT. I try to overcome, and I choose not to take those types of medications as an adult. I’ve had doctors offer to give me prescriptions for medications that may help. They help with fibromyalgia symptoms or anxiety, I am told. But I know my personal history, and it’s not a risk I am willing to take.
I think my history is also the biggest reason that I am willing to try everything else under the son before I will ever consent to medicate my child for a psychological or emotional disorder. I am just not willing to risk the reactions that I know I had, and that other children have had.
Please be gentle with me, friends. This post was very hard to write. I cried a lot writing this, and I am about a hair’s breadth away from an anxiety attack from putting these words in print at all, much less in a very public way.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.