This is an oldie but a goodie . . . I thought it was a good day to repeat it.
While I would agree that far too many Americans are on medications for mental health issues I think that, as one of those "using" I am thankful for them.
There are a couple different issues here. Let's talk about kids like Dustin. Dustin's issues go beyond "traumatized kid". They are stemming from organic brain damage caused in-utero by alcohol consumed by his mother. We are also dealing with mental illness that has been passed through his birth family. Schizophrenia is nothing to scoff at. Both his Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and his Schizophrenia make him a danger to himself or those around him when un-medicated. It is fairly safe to say that people would not argue with giving psychotropic meds to a child like this. That's not to say that we do not have to be careful and walk a fine line between safe amounts of medication and drooling, overmedicated zombie. Dustin in particular is VERY VERY sensitive to med changes and dosages. He suffers from a particularly dangerous reaction to higher doses of theses meds calle EPS. It can be life threatening and is NOT fun to witness and sometimes hard for professionals to diagnose.
Whenever Dustin is placed on a new medication I ask these questions:
1. What is it used for?
2. What positive results should I be looking for?
3. What negative results should I be looking for?
4. How long before I should see a change? When should I call you if I don't see a change?
5. How long does it take for the medication to get out of his system?
The last 2 I find particularly important since I need to know if a medication should begin working right away, or if it will take 3 weeks before I see the wanted results. That way, I can see if this medication will be effective or a dud. For instance, medications like Adderall are "in and out" in one day, where Zoloft may take 3-4 weeks before you see if it is effective. I also like the last question, so that I know if the medication has a half-life in his body. That one is particularly important for me since he typically has EPS reactions to medications. I need to know how long after he stops taking it will it still be affecting him.
The other issue is kids like my youngest son Harrison. Harrison is 8 years old and brilliant. This child was talking in full sentences at one year old, and reading words at three. He was reading for comprehension and enjoyment by four. When he was a kindergartner, he really started struggling with keeping his body still at school. He didn't look at you when you were talking, yet he could tell you everything you said. He was full of energy and was ALWAYS moving. I chalked most of it up to immaturity, because he was young for his grade and he had always been a little extra emotional. He started getting frustrated about not being successful in the social and behavioral aspect of school. He began getting very emotional about it. We started him on meds for ADHD. It made him a wonderful student in ALL ways. It has given him his self esteem back. It has been a blessing. Could he have lived without this medication? Sure. But he would not be the happy kid that he is now. He would not have the friends or the self confidence he does now. He would be "that" kid in the classroom. We have him on a fairly low dose and I do not think it is effecting him negatively. I think of it as giving him tools to be productive and the ability to restrain himself. Perhaps he can learn this on his own later after he masters how to calm his own body down, perhaps not.
Then we have the issue of my medication. My OCD went undiagnosed until I was 28 and married. I am so very thankful for the meds that helped me get that part of my personality under control and allow me to live my life to the fullest. I could survive with and OCD diagnosis and not have medication, but I would not be "free" to have the life I have now. I would be a slave to the compulsions and the obsessions.
I know that not all meds prescribed by doctor's are necessary, but wow, who am I to judge whether or not a drug could be helpful to someone. Would anyone ever begrudge a diabetic their insulin? Or a heart patient their blood thinner? It would be a no brainer. That medication is needed for them to live! Why are psychotropic drugs looked at as options by so many people instead of necessities?
And don't even get me started on people who say things like, "If your depressed, don't count on medication to help you, you just need to rest in God." Please! I have no issue with the power of prayer, but when we are dealing with a chemical imbalance, medication can help. Most of those people would never say to a cancer patient, "If you have cancer, don't do chemo, you just need to pray more."
Life is hard. Our world moves faster and faster each year. We strive to be better people, to make more money, to provide for our children. We struggle to keep up the pace and to not get weary. Marriage is difficult. So many of us are raising kids with issues. Our lives are spinning out of control in our fast paced world. In my opinion, it is okay to acknowledge our faults and our issues and treat them just as we would an illness. I don't see the harm in that.
Perhaps it is because I have lived it. I can see the danger or not medicating children with difficult issues. I have lived as that child trapped inside my own struggles with OCD and am now living virtually free of those chains as an adult. I have seen both sides. I can see the benefit and, gosh darn it, if I can help my child live a better life I will!
Let me fill you in quickly on my beliefs. I believe that Jesus is the son of God. I believe that he was crucified and rose again to save me. I believe that it is my responsibility as a Christian to follow his teachings. I believe that I am not infallible. I sin daily. I ask for forgiveness when mistakes are made and try the next day to do better. I believe God is a God of healing. I believe I will go to heaven when I die. That's it in a nutshell.
In addition to that I believe God is a God of peace. I believe he tells us to love others. I believe we are supposed to show people love and understanding and have tolerance. I believe that people have free will and while I may not agree with their decisions, I cannot judge them for making them. I believe that they will not consider my view on things if I choose intolerance. It is my job to be the hands and feet of Jesus on Earth with kindness, charity, benevolence and love being of supreme importance. I also believe that God knows what is best for me. I believe that things are done in His timing and because He knows the big picture, it's always best. I believe it's not my job to question that.
All that being said, I would love for Dustin to be healed. I have no idea if that is in the cards or not, but I don't pray for that. He was born with organic brain damage. I don't look at him like he is ill. I see him for who he is and who God allowed him to be. I accept him and his disability. Do I pray that he will get better, yes! But I never have prayed that the FAS goes away in the same way I have never prayed that Harrison's ADD goes away. Could God do that? I believe he could. Does that mean I don't have faith that he will do it for Dustin? I don't think so. God doesn't need me to heal him if he wishes.
I have faith that our life will get easier. I have faith that things will work out. I have faith that while I continue to trust daily in God that life will go easier than if I didn't. I rely on therapy, medication, kind thoughtful doctors, and lots and lots of patience. I pray for guidance and direction. I pray for peaceful spirits and a hedge of protection around my family.
Does that make me less of a Christian. I don't think so. I think God gives us things like therapy and medication to facilitate what he has for us. I think refusing psychiatric medication, chucking away therapy and simply relying on God to fix things is just as dangerous as those religious zealots who refuse medical treatment for illnesses.
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