Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Embrace the Balance.

My Little Guy was formally diagnosed with ADHD. We were prepared for the diagnosis, and to be honest, didn't really expect anything else to come out of our pediatrician's mouth. The next steps -- creating a treatment plan of action -- were where the difficult decision lay. Or so I expected.

Pre-diagnosis, my husband and I had thought we'd never put one of our sons on medication for 'behavior issues.' We both were guilty of being sadly ignorant of  ADHD realities, and also both adhered strictly to the 'boys will be boys' philosophy.  We believed that there were certain traits that all boys have, and that parents grossly over-medicated just because they didn't want to deal with a willful, exuberant child. (In hindsight, I could just kick myself for making such ignorant judgements. Especially now as I am experiencing firsthand how much those judgements hurt).

But, medication is exactly what our doctor recommended.  And in spite of our initial apprehension (and misguided opinions), we followed his advice.

I have heard personal stories and read countless articles about drug therapy since ADHD came into our lives.  How choosing to medicate is a really tough a decision; one article about how meds are SO bad for your child, and then the next tells you how meds are the only thing that works -- every parent and doctor (and unfortunately, random woman in the grocery store) has an opinion on the good or evil of ADHD meds. I was prepared for a long, drawn-out decision-making process, filled with lists of pros and cons, and hours of mulling it over.  But, in reality, once our doctor made his recommendations, I knew almost immediately it was the right thing to do for our family.

There are many reasons why choosing medical science to help our son was the path we chose.  1.) We trust our pediatrician; he's been the boys' doctor since the day they were born.  2.) The effects of the medication are not cumulative and completely reversible; if we change our minds, we can take him off the meds right away.  3.) Drug therapy doesn't have to be long term; if as a child, he needs medication to succeed in school (academically AND socially) so be it -- he has far more options for modeling his life to deal with ADHD as an adult.

But looking back now, I know I was always at peace with the decision to medicate, certainly for the reasons above, but also because of who I am -- a believer in technology, science and modern medicine.

When I was 18, I was diagnosed with Osteo-Rheumatoid Arthritis. It was an enormous struggle and an incredibly tough road at first. But, I was able to live my life and meet my goals and do the things I'd always dreamed about because I found the right medication that stopped the pain and let me experience life. When I was 32, I had a stroke. Although I don't like to necessarily think about it, I almost died.  But I didn't. I had surgery to remove part of my cerebellum that was possible thanks to medical science. I am a prime example of what medical technology and advancements can do -- it made me who I am.  Because of it, I still AM.

We have come a long way from using leeches and doctors not washing their hands before procedures and having polio and dying from illnesses that could be cured by a simple antibiotic. Modern medicine has done amazing things for physical conditions, from easily treating what were once fatal diseases to providing veterans with prosthetic limbs. Why isn't science as widely accepted as a way to treat mental disorders? I mean, if it's within my power to give my boy's 'race car brain' even a little bit of the relief I feel when taking my arthritis meds, isn't it worth a shot?

Of course, I am absolutely not saying there isn't a place for holistic treatment of illness. (We have begun our son in play therapy to address his ADHD in addition to his medication.) I also try to eat as 'cleanly' as possible and think a person's diet is better the more natural and chemical-free it is. (We have restricted the dyes and nitrites in my son's food.)  I definitely believe in the healing power of Mother Nature -- but to be sure, I believe in the strength of science as well.

We as humans (and part of nature) have developed the capacity for inventing miracles that help us (sometimes even save us).

Embrace the balance.