So here we are, a month into putting Theo on medication for ADHD—a decision that we agonized over for more than a year. We’re out of the honeymoon period and into everyday life. And what do I have to say about it?
Best decision ever.
Life-changing for whom, you ask? All of us. All four of us.
Yesterday, we had Theo’s one-month follow-up with the psychiatrist who is managing his medication. Because some of these medications can have significant side effects, they want to make sure he’s healthy both physically and mentally.
Physically, he’s fine. He’s lost two pounds, but that’s okay. He was neither overweight nor underweight before, so two pounds isn’t an issue. His appetite is slightly less than before (a known side effect of the medication), but it’s not so different that it’s worrisome. And his heart rate was slightly faster, but well within the normal range.
Emotionally, he’s fine as well. He told the doctor he feels “great!” and that he thinks the amount of medication he’s taking right now is “just right.” (We tried three dosages to get the right one. The nice thing about having a verbal nine-year-old is that he is certainly able to articulate how he felt on each dose!)
My one concern is that a couple of times over the past month, he got really sad. When things didn’t go as he wanted, he had to fight back tears and looked so sad. But in the past, when things didn’t go right, he would erupt like a volcano, so I suppose sad is perhaps just his new response, rather than angry. It’s just something we’ll have to watch. I mean, the point of medication isn’t to blunt all emotion, by any means—I just don’t want him going into a depression or something. But it’s only happened a couple of times over the month, so we’ll just keep watch on it.
According to Theo, his friends at school told him he seems calmer. Surprised that he would volunteer that he was on medication, I said, “Oh, did you tell them you were taking medication? Or did they just bring that up?”
“They just brought it up,” he said. “And then I told them.”
“So do they think it’s a good thing you’re calmer? Or…?” I asked.
“Oh, they like me both ways,” he said confidently. Good. I’m glad there doesn’t seem to be a stigma about medication in front of his friends. And as for him sharing that he’s on it, I certainly don’t mind. It’s nice to see that he’s clearly growing up in an age where stigma is less than when I was younger. He certainly has nothing to feel ashamed of, so I’m glad he’s comfortable with the situation.
From the standpoint of his parent, I can tell you this. Pre-medication, there was yelling in our house every day. Every…day. Multiple times a day. Theo would scream at us, and we’d end up raising our voices to try to break through to him…and sometimes just out of sheer frustration, because we’re human and it stinks to be yelled at all the time. Post-medication? I think I’ve raised my voice once in the past month. Once. Because when Theo gets angry about something now and I try to talk to him, he is actually able to calm down and listen and discuss it rationally with me.
I cannot tell you what a world of difference this makes. I didn’t medicate him so that he’d never get upset about anything, but I did hope he’d be able to not lose his composure every time the tiniest little thing went in a way he didn’t like or expect. And it worked. He goes with the flow now far better than he ever could before. He gets frustrated, but he is able to settle himself and look for solutions now, whereas before he would let the frustration ruin a large portion of his day.
Pre-medication, he seemed frustrated and angry much of the time. He turned everything into a battle. Post-medication, he is able to let the little things go and focus his efforts on the bigger things.
Pre-medication, much of the time he was unable to focus long enough to complete even short tasks. Post-medication, he is able to complete a task with minimal reminders. And with little to no arguing. One day I went upstairs and his laundry was put away. Without me asking. When I commented on it, he said, “Oh yeah, I figured I’d just take care of it while I was up there.” What? WHAT?! Who is this child, and what have you done with the boy who would yell in my face the minute I told him to put away his laundry?!
Pre-medication, he couldn’t control his impulses. We would give him explicit expectations, and he would defy them to our face. It was like he couldn’t help himself—he had to do it, even if he knew there would be consequences. (And there were consequences, clearly set out ahead of time.) Post-medication, he stops and thinks before acting. And thus, there are now very few consequences. He just doesn’t need them, because he’s agreeable and thoughtful and not spending every waking minute defying.
Pre-medication, he wasn’t smiling much anymore. Scowling–we had a lot of scowling. Post-medication, there is a happy calmness around him. He goes to school cheerful, he comes home cheerful, and he spends most of the afternoon cheerful. Only around bedtime, when his daily dose is wearing off, do we start to see frustration and lack of focus and arguing start creeping back in.
And yet, he is still the same Theo he has always been. My fear that medication would change his personality in some fundamental way was unfounded. He is still inquisitive and talkative and charismatic and funny and feisty and creative and quick-minded.
In fact, when I took him to the psychiatrist on Friday, he talked her ear off for thirty minutes about everything in his brain—which was an odd assortment of this and that, bits of trivia, insightful questions, and random musings. At one point she looked at me and asked, “When did you give him his medication?”
“7:30,” I replied.
She looked at her watch and looked back at me. “It should have taken effect by now…” she began.
“Yes. This is Theo on medication,” I said with a laugh.
She laughed, too. “Okay, then! I assume you’re fine with that?”
“Yes,” I said. “I didn’t want him to lose his inquisitiveness, and he hasn’t. I’m happy about that!”
She agreed. He is, right now, his very best Theo, which is what I wanted for him all along.
And guess what? The very best Theo brings out the very best in the rest of us, too. Chris and I are enjoying our son again. It had gotten so very, very tense for so long…and now we are able to just enjoy him. It’s wonderful!
And Sam…well, Sam doesn’t say much, but I am certain he must be enjoying the relaxed home we now live in, free from yelling and frustration. I mean, who wouldn’t like that?!
I’m not saying medication is the answer for everyone. But for us, it has been a godsend. Life is good. And most importantly, life is good for Theo.