Friday, September 17, 2010

Are there ever any answers?

Guest Blogger: Kathy Rosenbaum

*I met Kathy back in 1997 at 13WMAZ TV. She was a reporter and I was one of her producers. She is an amazing woman who lives her life open and has an incredible story to tell.  She is also one of my dearest friends. I hope you find her post as interesting as I did.

When Nicole asked me to be one of her “guest bloggers”, I spent a few days wondering what to write about. The responsibilities of pet ownership? Why I’m a member of the Tea Party? The joys of gardening? How it sucks to be a southerner trapped in the Northeast?

Then, my in-laws handed me an article from the New York Times and it got me started…

Since most of you don’t know me, I feel fairly comfortable using this introduction: I’m a stay at home mom to two broken kids. Does it make you mad for me to describe my children that way? Some people get angry, believing that all children are precious despite their afflictions. Mine are certainly precious to me- but they’re broken.

My oldest son was born 10 days late and he was literally blue from lack of oxygen. He is nine years old now and attends a special needs school about half an hour from our home. My youngest son was diagnosed with a “thought disorder” last year after a couple of years of depression, suicidal thoughts and angry, violent tendencies. If he were a few years older, that “thought disorder” would be lableled Bipolar disorder. My youngest son is six.

With my older son, it’s fairly obvious to see he’s got some challenges. He walks a little funny, has trouble controlling his movements and is incredibly immature for his age. It’s also easier to understand why he has the challenges- lack of oxygen. Knowing this doesn’t make him any easier to live with or care for, but at least there’s a reason David is how he is.

With my baby, this diagnosis came out of the blue. He was perfect. He was my “angel love”- cuddly, agreeable and hit every milestone as a baby and toddler. It wasn’t until he was 3, then 4 when I started to think maybe there was an issue bigger than stubbornness on his part.

How can a small child be depressed? How can a kindergartener even realize what killing himself would mean? Why would a young boy withdraw from the world and be so violent to those around him? All good questions- and I have no freaking clue what the answers are. As a matter of fact, that’s how I knew there was something seriously wrong with my child and got him help as fast as I could.

Now, back to that New York Times article. The writer, Duff Wilson, insists psychiatrists are putting kids on anti-psychotic drugs too early and for the wrong reasons. Wilson, details the story of a mother who, “at her wits end” medicates her child on the advice of her doctor. That doctor wasn’t a psychiatrist- he was a pediatrician. The pediatrician sent the child to specialists: neurologists, psychiatrists, therapists… all came up with a reason why this child needed medication. The mother says her son’s “shell was there, but he wasn’t there…” and that she “didn’t like that.”

In the end, doctors believe this child’s issues developed from the fact that his mother was unwed, having more children, on social services and essentially ignoring her son. Ok- that makes sense. The woman had no business having children in the first place and didn’t take care of them, so her kid had issues.

But what about for those kids who have stable, loving homes? Where’s the medical explanation for them?

My son “presented” as a child who had been verbally and emotionally abused- except he hadn’t. He acted like he’d been called a failure his whole life. Daniel told teachers and therapists that I never hugged him or told him I loved him. None of those things ever happened- in fact, the opposite was true. Why would he say these things? Only psychiatrists know for sure, but after he told the public school psychologist that he had an “extermination list” of 8 people including his family and a couple of students, I realized it was time for something more than “play therapy”. I took him to a child psychiatrist, had him evaluated and started him on meds.

It took months to see a real difference in my son’s behavior and thinking, but once his “mania” broke, I had my wonderful child back. It’s not without consequences; he’s gained a lot of weight and feels tired a lot. He’s not perfect- by ANY means. He still has negative thoughts and can be overly moody, but at least he no longer calls himself a demon who wants to stab me in the heart and cut my head off with a machete. I work with him everyday as his makeshift therapist to handle his extremely strong willed personality so he can overcome his neuroses and be a normal little boy.

It’s not easy being the one responsible for another life, whether it’s a pet, a child or an aging parent. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done- and I’ve done some really, really difficult things in my life.

I get through it day by day because I’m committed to being responsible. It’s no one else’s job to handle my child’s issues or secure his happiness but mine. I partner with teachers and therapists, but at the end of the day what determines whether my boys sink or swim is the quality of my work.

That NY Times article seems to imply that doctors and drug companies have it in for unsuspecting parents and small children… not true. As a parent- a good parent- you are constantly evaluating and weighing what’s best for your child, especially if your child is broken. Sometimes, what’s best for your child isn’t pleasant. Sometimes, it’s downright frightening. I’ve found that I have to be strong enough and responsible enough to fix what’s broken and still have enough love and affection to spend some “love time” with them at the end of the day. Maybe that’s the toughest part of all…

As I write this, my boys are outside riding scooters and hitting golf balls- acting like regular kids. It’s become my favorite sound in the entire world. I know that in another few minutes, there’ll be another crisis to handle where these boys are concerned, but that’s my job. And I’m thankful to be working on it every single day.


wordygirl said...

Early on I knew my 2nd son had a learning disability. As it became obvious people/family blamed me/home schooling. After much searching and tears we found help. When the dr. praised me and said my sons progress was unusual, I almost cried. Knowing how hard this has been for us I can imagine how difficult your journey has been. I admire your commitment and honesty. I do often feel kids are over medicated, but at the same time I do know there are kids that need it. We have to remember that we arent the ones living with and caring for the child everyday when we judge and form quick opinions. Thank you for sharing.

Jen G-son said...

Wow, your post blew me away. It's always nice to see a parent be frank about their child situation, whether its admitting they're not potty training right or their child is "broken."

Good for you for doing what it takes. I'm only 24, a few years away from kids, but I can recognize good parenting and a difficult situation as well. I wish there were more people out there like you, doing what they can, accepting what needs to be done.

Kudos and thanks for sharing.

Bossy Betty said...

Incredible post. The challenges you face on a daily basis put everything in perspective for a lot of us.


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