Medicating My Son Was the One Thing I Never Wanted to Do — But It’s Also What Saved Him


Editor’s note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.

It was my 6-year-old’s bedtime when I realized that he was almost out of medication. And normally that wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that his medication cannot be refilled over the phone. It can only be refilled by seeing his doctor, getting a paper copy of the prescription, and taking it to the pharmacy.

It has to be done that way because his medications are a controlled substance; all four of them.

This wasn’t what I expected parenting to look like.

controlled substances
Image source: Eden Strong

In fact, nothing about parenting my son has been what I expected. From developmental delays that led to an epilepsy diagnosis, which then turned into impulse control and behavior issues, every year of his life has brought with it both the blessings of him, and a new set of challenges.

He is not an easy kid.

But, when you decide to become a parent, you sign an unwritten contract that says no matter what your child throws your way, you will never give up.

So, I didn’t.

When my son first started having seizures, stopping them immediately was my utmost concern (and seemed like a pretty reasonable plan). But, even though I didn’t ask other people, I was shocked at how many had opinions on my son taking a seizure medication.

“Why don’t you try the ketogenic epilepsy diet so you can keep him off the drugs?” was a sentiment offered up by more than one person trying to be helpful. And when I explained that he had been on the diet before we got the final diagnosis and it hadn’t helped, CBD oil was the next suggestion constantly thrown my way.

Anything, it seemed, was preferable over putting him on “the drugs.”

So, when it came time to manage the behavioral problems that had begun to accompany his issues, medication was the last option that I wanted to turn to. With drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall on the rise, I’ll admit, I too had silently judged parents who I thought were “taking the easy way out” of parenting by medicating their excitable children into submission.

controlled substances
Image source: Eden Strong

Although I’m not proud of how I felt, I also wasn’t ready to become a medicating parent.

It felt like giving up.

Therefore, I tried every other avenue at my disposal. When nine different types of therapy hadn’t worked in the ways that he needed, I kept going. I implemented discipline balanced with reward charts, sensory tools, and even had a behaviorist come to my house to critique my parenting skills. I did whatever I thought I needed to do to help my son; anything that I needed to do to avoid medicating him.

But none of it helped, and if anything, he was getting worse. His impulsivity made him a danger to himself, and when his inattention made his schoolwork suffer, he fell behind in class. His excitability made it difficult for him to make friends and his social skills began to suffer.

One night, as I cried myself to sleep for the umpteenth time that month, I was forced to sit back and reevaluate what I’d done — what I already tried that failed, versus what I had never done at all.

Medication was the only option left.

I also cried when I made the doctor appointment — harder than when he had first been given the epilepsy diagnosis. What had felt like a challenge we could overcome at the time, now felt like one that we had tried to conquer … and failed.

I was about to join the ranks of parents who medicate their children’s behavioral symptoms and there wasn’t a single cell in my body that didn’t carry a bit of shame about it on some simplistic level.

Thankfully, my opinion on that has now changed. In fact, my opinion on everything has changed.

What I initially feared would turn him into a clouded-out version of who he should have been, instead has unveiled the child he was always supposed to be. For the first time in years, I can truly see my son again.

controlled substances
Image source: Eden Strong

I see his creativity when he sits at the table drawing a picture; a task that he never would have been able to do unmedicated. I see his intelligence when the teacher sends home notes saying that he has not only caught up scholastically but surpassed the class in some areas. I see his self-esteem blossoming when he runs in the door after school, excited to tell me about the sticker he got for good behavior, and the new friend that sat by him at lunch.

I see my son succeeding in all the ways that I’ve always dreamt for him — and I see it by way of the one thing that I never wanted for him — medication.

These days, he still does therapy twice a week, but there’s no denying that it works better when he is medicated. He is also still on a very strict diet and has an aide with him in school, but if I’m going to be honest here … it’s the medication that is helping him the most.

I was wrong when I thought that medicating a child was “taking the easy way out.” There is nothing easy about coming to the realization that your child needs help. There is nothing easy about grieving the loss of the path you thought you were going to take, when embarking on a new one. There’s nothing easy about any of it, but like many difficult aspects of parenting, it doesn’t make it wrong either.

Medicating my child was the right thing to do, because it was the only way to save him.

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