We live in a nation that has declared a war on the use of certain drugs by even the most well-informed adults yet encourages -and often REQUIRES- the administration of psychotropic drugs to young children.
A single mother works two part-time jobs and attends college full-time in an attempt to better support her children after their father abandoned them to be with his new girlfriend. One day, she is found to be in possession of a minuscule amount of marijuana. Perhaps she self-medicates for a chronic condition because she cannot afford health insurance, or perhaps it belongs to the coworker that she drove to work the other day. Either way, she is guilty. She is sent to prison and her children, separated from one another, become wards of the state. Their mother does her time, secures a new (albeit crappy) job, gets the only apartment that anyone will rent to an ex-con, and fights to get them back. But she can’t afford a good lawyer and loses appeal after appeal. Meanwhile, the children continue to be passed around from foster home to foster home until they “age out” of the system and are left to fend for themselves. Because illegal drugs are bad.
Another mother refuses to medicate her depressed child who has been diagnosed by the school psychologist as having ADHD, because she’s done enough research to know that Ritalin and its cousins are in the same category as cocaine and that antidepressants often have harsh, life-altering side-effects. The depression is related to the bullying about which the child’s school will do nothing, so she withdraws her son and begins a home education program that relies very little on written work and very much on hands-on activities. Her son’s symptoms are managed fairly easily with diet and exercise. She, too, is sent to prison, and her child is committed to a home for the mentally disabled, where he undergoes harsh treatment and overmedication. She tries to free her son from the system, but her rights have been revoked due to medical neglect. By the time her son is a legal adult, and the mother is finally able to see him again, he has already become addicted to amphetamines. He lives out his life on the streets, doing odd jobs to pay for his next fix.
Can someone please tell me what is wrong with this picture?
I don’t mean to minimize the potential dangers of certain illegal substances. Some of them are extremely harmful. Others, like marijuana, are relatively harmless when compared with alcohol, modern-day cigarettes, and some OTC medications.
I also don’t mean to debase every use of prescription medications. There are situations that absolutely call for the administration of an antibiotic, or chemotherapy, or even (maybe) some psychotropic drugs. But there are so many, many more instances when simple nutrition or exercise or lifestyle changes can, quite literally, change lives!
So what? Why am I writing this?
The hot Peruvian and I have been discussing and praying about getting the kids off their meds for months, ever since my research led us to the gruesome facts that had been withheld from us by their care providers. We’ve been working toward eliminating processed foods and all things artificial from our diet, while adding more healthy stuff. We are beyond frustrated with the minimal positive effects and the plentiful side-effects. (Between the three boys, we were handing out 12 pills a day. This is the first time I’ve added it up, and I am appalled at myself for allowing it).
Recently, my 6 year old son, Eli, ran out of his medication. It was the day right before a big snowstorm hit, and we were unable to get his prescription filled within the usual withdrawal period of 3-4 days. (It is impossible to get this type of medication even one day early.) So it seemed like a good time to jump into our drug-free life decision. Ideally, we would have liked to wean him off gently, but that simply was not an option while we were snowed in.
Fast-forward a bit.
Thursday, January 3, the three public-school-going kids got home at 4pm as usual. Eli, as usual, had a story to tell about a verbal altercation he had had with another student (let’s call him Manny) on the bus ride home. I handled it, as usual, by loving on him as much as he would allow, and trying to distract them all with a snack. As usual, Eli went outside to play, reluctantly donning his shoes and coat after several minutes of trying to argue his way out of them. His brother went out a few minutes later to make sure that he wasn’t going to Manny’s house to turn the verbal fight into a physical one. As far as I know, everything outside was fine, and they came back in smiling just before dinner was ready.
But before I could get the food on the table, Eli was in a rage. Nobody, including him, could tell me why. This is, sadly, not unusual for a child with RAD or autism, and the hot Peruvian and I know how to handle it. After cleaning up the shattered glass of a light bulb from every inch of the kitchen, I left the man to handle Eli so that I could fill plates. Somehow, we convinced him to calm down long enough to eat supper. He seemed okay. He ate seconds.
It started again shortly after he’d taken his last bite. And, as usual, we simply did our best to keep everyone out of harm’s way, offering suggestions of right choices as often as Eli would hear them. When he became injurious and destructive, he was restrained as gently as possible, the way we were taught by mental health workers. I lost my temper once or twice and yelled at him when something he threw hit the baby. We spanked him once, hoping the shock of minor physical pain would wake him up. It only made him worse.
At bedtime, we offered countless options for sleeping arrangements, diversions, et cetera, in hopes of allowing the other kids to get to sleep. Tables were flipped. Toys were thrown. Crackers were crushed.
We finally put him in the bedroom that the three boys share almost two hours after bedtime. We had work to do. But when he wouldn’t calm down, his big brother punched him, more than once. So I left the computer, where I had been trying to work on an overdue assignment, and the hot Peruvian left the kitchen, where he had been trying to wash dishes, and we started over with the attempts at calming him, which, as usual, led to restraints.
Finally, at 10:30pm, Eli agreed that he would stop if I slept with him on the couch. Sure, there was no chance of getting my school work done this way, but at least the household would finally get some peace!
Until the next morning.
The kids have to leave the house by 8:32am to avoid missing the bus. At 8:00, they were all still asleep. As much as I would have loved to leave them that way, I couldn’t not send them to school: We received letters a few weeks ago stating that the kids have missed too many days already. So we woke them up, one by one, Eli last.
He was still angry. He was NOT going to go to school. He was NOT going to get dressed. He was NOT going to eat breakfast. He was NOT GOING! Except that he had to.
So I dressed him, as he flailed like a newborn baby that weighs close to 70 pounds and kicks with the force of a grown man.
I dressed him, because we could be in trouble if he misses any more school without a valid reason. Stubbornness is not a valid reason. And, apparently, elementary students aren’t entitled to mental health days.
I dressed him, because I was afraid of how the day might turn out if he were to stay home. Would I be able to protect the little ones from his rage, while tending to their needs, alone? Would I be able to prevent Zeke from injuring him when the stress of Eli’s tantrum became more than his senses could handle? Would I be able to survive another 6+ hour fit without saying something really mean, or -worse- hitting back?
I dressed him, while the man held him down, because he had kicked me so hard that I was afraid another such blow might break my ribs. We got his coat on him. We got his shoes on him. He was carried to the car. He ran away. He was carried to the car again. He was put as gently as possible into a seat and buckled.
At that point, I called the school to let them know he was on his way. I let them know that he had threatened to take all his clothes off, and that I could not guarantee what might happen between that moment and when he arrived at the school 10 or so minutes later. They said not to worry, that they would take care of him when he got there.
And he got there. After having tried to leap from the moving vehicle, he got there. After having to be held in place with one hand, while the hot Peruvian drove with the other, he got there.
And then he lied. He said that he had been slammed against the car window so hard that it chipped. (There are no chips on any of the car windows.) He said that he had been held down by the neck. (He was held down for part of the drive – it was that or have him jump from the van, that or have him cause an accident. But he was not held by the neck.) He showed them bruises that he’s gotten from his brothers over the last few days of picking fights with them, and he said that we caused them. (Yes, we do occasionally spank the children. We have never left a mark.) And the school called Children and Youth Services.
Honestly, I am glad that the schools here are so caring, so concerned for the welfare of the children that they will report suspected incidents of abuse. I am glad that they are required by law to notify the authorities when they have any reason to suspect a child is being hurt at home. I really, really am. And, as my long-time readers know, I have had mostly good things to say about our relationship with CYS in the past.
But I don’t like having my toddler woken up from his afternoon nap by a knock on the door. I don’t like the moment of the day in which I had planned to recover the house from the previous chaos being stolen by a woman who has no desire to hear the honest answers I give to her questions. I don’t like being treated like a liar or a lesser being by anyone. Especially in front of my children.
I really, really, don’t like having an uninvited CYS worker demand in the form of an aspartame [read: fake-sugary] question to see the kids’ bedrooms, then tell me IN FRONT OF MY CHILDREN that it’s wrong for my toddler to sleep in my bed, that he’s too old, or that I should have asked a previous worker about the safety requirements for bed-sharing. (Imagine if they knew he was still breastfeeding on demand!)
I really, really don’t like having her ask me, in a derogatory tone, IN FRONT OF MY CHILDREN what my reasoning was behind taking my son off of his medication, then tell me that he absolutely needs something, and have I thought about putting him in inpatient care? Why, yes, he’s been to the hospital, and as you should know, Miss Clueless Youth Worker, all they do is change their meds and send them home with a wish of good luck. I don’t want luck or drugs. I want to help my baby heal.
I don’t like answering personal healthcare questions like a mindless robot and then mentally kicking myself later for not standing up for my rights as the sole legal custodian of my children, the only one responsible for making choices concerning their well-being, the person who knows and loves them best.
I don’t like knowing that a stranger went into my kids’ school without my knowledge and spoke to my son about my parenting skills. (My mentally ill son, who they’re trying to convince me to keep drugged up – they interrogate him without notifying me first? Hmm…)
And you know what else I don’t like? I really, really, really don’t like said caseworker asking for information about my abusive ex-husband by name IN FRONT OF THE CHILD HE DID THE MOST DAMAGE TO and insisting that she has to notify him of the alleged incident, even after I’ve explained to her the harm that just the sound of his name can do to my family, let alone the chance of him locating us. “You want his contact information? Look him up on the Megan’s Law website. If you tell him anything about us, you will be putting my family in danger. If you notify him, I will take legal action against you.” Please, God, don’t let this fiasco put us in actual, physical danger.
***Since I first wrote this, I have managed to convince CYS not to contact jerkface the ex. Thankfully, the supervisor of the caseworker who came to my home is familiar with our family and understands my concern. Thank you, Ms. T—-!***
To get back to the little anecdotes at the beginning of this very long post and why I’m writing about the drug issue…
I truly believe that, if my family had gotten the help we needed when we needed it (years before our abuser was arrested), things would never have gotten to this point.
I believe that, if we had gotten appropriate help when help finally did come – counseling and shelter, instead of being left to rot, homeless and emotionally shattered, after he was arrested – this never would have happened.
I believe that, if even one of the many mental health care providers we have worked with since my oldest son had his first nervous breakdown nearly three years ago had ever told me about the non-medicinal ways to help my children, our current situation never would have happened.
If, instead of pushing pills as the magical cure, instead of sending us away because my children’s emotional damage was “more than [they were] equipped to handle,” instead of trying to get the kids to relive the torture they endured by acting it out and discussing it in artificial settings, instead of suggesting I go to parenting classes (in which I excelled, by the way), instead of trying to force my children to conform to societal standards of how a “normal” person should behave, instead of setting the bar so high and suggesting that encapsulated chemicals are the only way to reach it…. if anyone had actually tried to help us find real, life-changing answers (like nutrition as the basis for life or letting the small things go or having faith in God rather than in doctors…), we never would have gotten to this point.
I never would have put my sweet babies on drugs if I hadn’t been convinced that it was the only solution. And they wouldn’t have to suffer through years of emotional hell after the physical hell we escaped, because we all would have healed by now.
I don’t like having it rubbed in my face by people who have no idea what it’s like to raise a child, let alone more than one, with severe emotional damage and/or mental health diagnoses.
I really don’t like knowing that so many other kids out there will stay drugged forever because their parents are convinced that they have no choice.
I thank God that I’ve been able to find the truth about the long-term damage that pharmaceutical “remedies” can cause to a developing brain. I pray that it isn’t too late for complete healing for my boys. I also pray that more people will learn the truth and say no to drugging their kids, even if the system tells them they should.
Please pray for us as we trust in God instead of man to heal our troubles. I know with all my heart that it is time for us to be set free from the bondage of mental illness. My precious children do not deserve to suffer through insomnia, fear, uncontrollable anger, and flashbacks of the abuse. They also do not deserve to suffer through the effects of drugs that are known to cause heart attack, brain shrinkage, hallucinations, addictions, obesity, extreme weight loss, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts. There’s a chance that my decision to de-medicate my kids will become a legal battle in the near future. I ask that those of you who know my family prayerfully consider supporting us with kind and honest words should that occur.
And, please, please, please do your own research before agreeing to administer any drugs to your children for the sake of compliance or performance. Today’s kids really are tomorrow’s future. Can you imagine a living in a nation run by prescription drug-addicted men and women who know only how to comply and conform but never how to think for themselves?