Struggling to contain my frustration

Arrrrgghhhhh! For some reason, this week, my son has decided to ramp up the oppositional behaviours. He’s throwing pencils away (albeit a LOT less violently than he used to!) and closing his books and refusing to do his school work. 

Now, I’ve trained myself reasonably well to deal with that sort of behaviour. I take a deep breath and keep composed because let me tell you for some reason the throwing of the pencils really, really, REALLY annoys me! I feel like just screaming at him every time he does it! That and the eraser. Drives me NUTS!!!!!

The other really frustrating thing is that we’ve been working through a practice year 2 maths book because although he was moving on to slightly harder stuff, I just felt that he didn’t really quite get it yet. So, the book basically goes through addition and subtraction with numbers 1 through to 20. The basics of fractions and multiplication and counting up to 100. He can do all this stuff, as he proves each day when he does it. However, every single day when I open the book and set it in front of him, he just says, 

“I can’t do subtraction! Subtraction facts for number 12?! I can’t do that! I don’t have 12 fingers!” Then I’ll work on him a bit until he settles down. This involves him hiding under the table, throwing pencils (grrr), and shouting that he’s not doing it no matter what I do or say. Eventually he realises that I’m not going to give up and either I’ll set a timer which counts how much extra maths he’ll have to do in comparison to how much complaining he’s doing, or I’ll be giving him the silent treatment so he knows that I’m not interested in all the avoidance he’s displaying. He settles down, does the work (usually getting it all correct and completing two pages in less than 15 minutes), and it’s all good. 

Then the next day, he repeats the entire procedure again!!! Each day I can’t believe that he’s doing it again. The same refusal, the same complaint. Like I said, I’ve trained myself fairly well to deal with all this kindly and patiently, however, it’s really starting to wear on me two weeks down the track! This of course all requires a large amount of my time and energy and patience, and I’m finding it a bit hard to stay awake in the afternoons!

Add to this the new eating plan I am trying to implement to counteract the weight gain caused by his medication, and we are all a little tired and grumpy!

We eat pretty well, with almost everything being home made, including most snacks and treats, but I think we’ve just been eating a little too much. My son is hungry all the time with the medication and it causes him to crave sugar and carbs (really useful side effect for a medication you give to people with mental illness right?!). Anyway, I’m ramping up the low GI, proteins and dairy, as well as reducing his portion sizes considerably. He’s not fat yet, but the rate at which he’s putting weight on is going to be come a problem for him soon. He already notices that when he sits down, his belly has a little roll that sits above his pants, and he hates it, because it makes his pants dig into him. I bought bigger pants, but he hates it all the same. This is a kid who was used to having a six pack previously, so I guess I understand where he’s coming from. Extra exercise and a good diet I am hoping will work, if not, I’m going to try a medication break to see how much he still needs it. 

That’s the other thing I’m worried about. His Ritalin doesn’t seem to be working as well as it used to, and I suspect that he might need a higher dose now. There is also the possibility that his Risperdal dose needs increasing and that’s why we are starting to see his angry reactions back again. I hate that thought. I managed to accept the medications initially because the doses were so very low, and of course because they were really effective. If we have to increase the doses, I’m going to struggle with that. It will mean more meds around in his body, and possibly the side effects might increase too. That will mean more weight gain, or who knows what else?

Sigh, it’s an ongoing tale, that needs all the pieces to be working in unison all the time in order to get any ‘normalcy’. If anything drops the ball (parenting, meds, outside stresses), he kind of relapses. He doesn’t regress though so I guess I just have to keep at it and make sure we do it all for as long as we need to in order to give him a happy life. 

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18 Responses to Struggling to contain my frustration

  1. Gede Prama says:

    Well written. May peace be with you 🙂

  2. JudgeRoy says:

    I’m sorry thing have been so hard lately and that the medication isn’t being as effective. What I did was take weekends off taking my Ritalin and when I took the dose again the medication just stayed just as effective. My mum thought that was a bad idea though. I just don’t think the meds were right for me to begin with. You probably might not even be able to take a break if his symptoms are that severe.You probably couldn’t do such a thing with Risperdal.
    Does he do revision? When I went several or so weeks without learning a certain subject and had to do revision as they called it, if I got a good mark it would make me feel more confident that I could do the work and remember it. But I know, I shouldn’t really offer advice.
    I still have doubts about doing something as well, like taking photographs. People would think I’m crazy for saying that but I get a lot of nerves about having to take photos of bands and I’ve gone 3 months without taking any photos of them and I’ve just got no confidence in myself. I usually get a lot of praise from people about my photography.
    I’ve had a bad week too and I don’t think after all the stress from anxiety and restless sleep that I would want to do school work too. I even bought some chamomile tea to calm down. I haven’t drunk any yet. It’s there if I need it though.
    Good luck with the diet and exercise regime too.

  3. KL says:

    Thanks Shanti. If you have advice to offer, I’m always happy to hear it 😉 I don’t discount anyone’s advice. He does a lot of revision. The work I get him to do is always very similar each day so that he understands what he’s doing. When we start something completely different, I sit down with him and prepare him that he hasn’t seen it before, and that it might make him feel anxious about not understanding it straight away. Then I go through and do the first bits for him until I can see that he ‘gets it’.
    I used to give him Ritalin breaks to be honest. New research has started coming through about how Ritalin and meds like it, actually help the ADHD to physically change. They think it’s to do with the fact that the brain is being supported by the medication so it has a chance to work on itself and this is especially true in a young brain which is changing and growing all the time. As his psychiatrist says, “you can take him off the meds if you want to, that’s your choice, but why would you want to when those meds are helping him and his brain to grow?” It’s not as simple as that, but I know what she means.
    I drink chamomile tea all the time and look how calm I am! Don’t wait till you need it, have it just coz you want to.
    I hope your week gets better. I would really love to tell you that you should go and take photos of bands and remember that you don’t have to show anyone if you are worried about them and have no confidence. At least you’ll be practising though!

  4. Andrea says:

    Hi Kathryn,

    I struggle with medication for my son too, seeing how he gets so sleepy an hour after i give him the meds and how his face and tummy has bloated up not just from eating more (which I try to control like you are) but I think also from water retension. There was once he suspected that I had hidden his meds in his yogurt. So to prove (or lie) to him that there is no meds in his yogurt, I ate half a spoonful in front of him – I was so sleepy half an hour after that attempt and to think that I only had half a spoonful of his half bowl of spiked yogurt!

    I guess we have to make the best decision we can for our child based on expert advice and our mother’s instincts.

    By the way, is he needing higher doses because he is growing bigger? At his age, he will be going through growth spurts?

    Take care

  5. KL says:

    Thanks Andrea. Yes, it’s awful seeing their faces all round and puffed up isn’t it. It’s something I really hate. Yes, he is getting bigger and this is going to be one of the reasons that he needs a larger dose. I guess I’m just hoping somewhere along the line that the medication will have supported all the other things enough that the behavioural things and psychology can take over from the medication one day. I need to be more patient I suppose, but it is hard.
    Your son didn’t want to take the medication? Is that why you had to hide it? We are very lucky with our son and medication. We explain everything to him about why he needs it and he takes it all by himself at the right time. He even reminds his Daddy to give it to him when I’m not there! We’ve never had to hide it or worry about him not taking it.

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Kathryn,

      My son had been good to take his medication from the measuring cup for almost 2 years. Last year something happened that drove his anxiety through the roof and mine with his. After that he refused his medication and I had to hide it in many ways which was very stressful for both of us. I hope Corey and you will never be in the same position. But if it ever happens (touch wood!), we can discuss the mistakes I made so that it does not happen to you.

      I had gone gung-ho 2 years ago to reduce his medication as he got better but had failed to see that his environment ie the school was shifting and his new teacher was causing him a lot of stress which he internalised and did not express until it was too late. I am now very cautious about reducing his medications.

      Recently I switched his milk/yogurt to lactose free and noticed it made a difference. It could well be a host of other reasons too. I am sure you have tried all the diet and will find one that best suits your family.


  6. Samantha says:

    Hi Kathryn,
    I have been following your blog since watching the show kids on speed and I just want to tell you what an amazing job you are doing. You are truly an inspiration, and although your response would probably be along the lines of ‘this is what any mother would do’ , I admire how you are going about dealing with daily family life and am following your journey with great interest.
    Kindest regards,

    • KL says:

      Thank you Sam. I needed some words like that tonight. This evening has been a bit of a struggle for all of us I think! Definitely time to review ‘stuff’! It’s always nice to be reminded that other people may have a more positive view of what’s going on because it’s hard when you are living the monotony of it day to day.


  7. KL says:

    Woah. Where do I begin? Firstly, thank you for being brave enough and caring enough to comment and tell me your own journey and story. I think I might actually do a whole blog post based on your comment and my response so everyone can have the chance to read it. For now, let me tell you that I have had this uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and head for a while now regarding the Risperdal medication. Thank you for pushing me to examine those ‘gut feelings’ and discuss them with my husband tonight. Like I said, I’ll do a post about all this hopefully soon.

    • KL says:

      It takes a fair bit to offend or annoy me 😉 I’ve had lots of practice controlling my responses thanks to our boy! Don’t worry I know about reducing and weaning off. Corey is only on the liquid form at 1.25mg/100ml so it’s actually not going to be too hard to reduce it and come off over the next few months.

  8. Pingback: Decisions, decisions | Day in the life…

  9. Gary Evesson says:

    Using your own argument:

    I actually do take a medication that fixes my brain chemistry and it works great. Therefore all medications that fix brain chemistry must work. Therefore you must be a liar. QED.

    Please, at least try and make your arguments logical on *some* level.

  10. KL says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I thought it seemed to be not requiring me to approve your comments since the first one…. let me go and see what happened.


  11. Victoria, Canada says:

    As someone whose son takes the same meds that Kat’s son takes and who is similarly conflicted about giving them to him, I felt the need to respond to Sarah’s post and put my .02 cents in.

    Sarah, it seems like your intentions are well meaning but I have to point out that a parent with a child with certain neurological conditions that are severe enough to be critically interfering with his development (not to mention in some cases putting his own and other people’s safety at risk) has few options available that make the kind of difference that medications can make.

    I doubt that any of us are fooling ourselves into thinking that we are “fixing” our children – at least I don’t feel that way. The medications allow my son’s brain to slow down enough for us to be able to do other therapies with him such as OT, physical therapy, intensive tutoring etc

    My son is 7 and after trialing several medications for a couple of years and not finding much relief we decided to wean him off all meds and treat him with homeopathic, nutritional supplements, diet and even energy medicine ( a form of acupressure ). I also pulled him out of school and began homeschooling him. He was off meds for close to 9 months and it became very apparent that he was regressing physically and developmentally. He has Tourette Syndrome and ADHD and while he was off meds he was also developing symptoms of OCD, severe anxiety and extreme mood swings (manic/depressive). I came to realize that a lot of things that I thought were side effects of the meds he was on were actually part of his neurological disorder.

    Between his tics, severe hyperactivity, mood swings, compulsions and anxiety he got to the point where he did not want to leave the house at all, he became a physical and emotional threat to his 5 year old sister and academically he was falling further and further behind because his attention span and ability to focus were non-existent. He was miserable and was making everyone around him miserable. It was a sad state of affairs all around.

    The two articles you quoted are about depression and one of them very briefly mentions ADHD. As parents we have to be so careful not to take anything we read online as gospel. While it’s true that pharmaceutical companies have been known to overzealously market drugs in order to make money there are also many conspiracy theorists out there who firmly believe “the man” is out to get them. You also need to consider THEIR motives. Most also have a lot to gain from selling their on products, programs etc etc

    And here we are as parents trying to raise relatively functional children in the midst of this endless debate. It’s enough to drive anyone mad!

    Kat, if you feel that going off meds right now is the right thing to do go for it but also keep an open mind. I HATE medicating my child every day but every time I see him being able to function, focus enough to actually learn – even if still behind his peers academically, better control his impulses, being able to enjoy hobbies like Lego and playing with friends, all the things that he could just NOT do off medication I feel a little better. Is he “fixed”? Are things perfect? Absolutely NOT. Will he stay on these particular meds forever? If history is any indication, then probably not.

    It drives me crazy when I hear anyone say that “natural” remedies are best and we should never medicate our children. Until someone has walked in our shoes they really have NO IDEA… NO CLUE! These neurological conditions are VERY difficult to treat and there are NO easy answers. All we can do is respond to our children’s needs the very best that we can. Will we be proven wrong or completely incompetent as parents? Who the hell knows. All I know is I love my son and for the moment he is doing better on meds than off. If/when that changes we will need to adjust accordingly. I try not to get too far ahead of myself and take things day to day.

    • KL says:

      Hi Victoria, thank you for commenting. It’s definitely a topic which has stimulated much discussion and thought. I am so with you on your journey, your little man is only seven. It’s hard isn’t it. I often have to remind myself that there are families out there who’s kids have even more difficulties than my own, and while I’m certainly not ‘happy’ about that. I am thankful. I am definitely keeping an open mind to the medication. I guess the thing with me is that I was already researching and starting to think about taking him off before anyone commented on my blog. It never sat well with me, and while I’m not ruling it out completely I actually really feel deep down that we can help him through his difficulties in other ways.
      Sometimes I think of it like this though when I consider how against these meds some people are. ….. If my son had diabetes, no one would question for a second that we need to give him insulin. Yes, we would of course be expected to control his problems using a healthy balanced diet, but we would certainly not be judged for giving him the medication he needed. Yes, I am aware that every medication is very different and that there are different levels of research involved in all of them… but it’s something to think about.
      Again, thank you for reading, and I so hope that you and your boy find that balance that you need.

  12. Victoria, Canada says:

    Dearest Sarah, I really do appreciate your comments. And of course all the arguments you present all sound very valid… except… what is the alternative? I would love for you to show me scientifically validated, long terms studies on the use of any natural remedy or treatment that has significantly helped children such as ours. One of the hardest things about this debate is that there is SO MUCH contradicting information out there and you can’t take everything you read to heart until you consider its source.

    As it is with most things in society, it all comes down to money. Controlled scientific studies are expensive and they have to be paid for by somebody or some organization. Whoever’s got the money gets to decide what is studied, for how long and whether the results will be made public or not. Also, the results that are published may be interpreted and written up in a certain way based on the bias of whoever paid for the study in the first place. That’s what I mean by not taking anything you read anywhere as gospel. The ugly truth is that no one knows what the true effects of giving medication to a particular child will be in the long term. There’s very little scientific data available and what IS available is more than likely biased based on who paid for the study to be done. And to make things even more fun every child is different and reacts to medication differently. That’s why I hate giving medication to my son.

    Having said that, one thing you are failing to mention in your posts is the irreversible effects on these children’s (and I’m talking about children who are clearly struggling and who do not significantly benefit from “natural”, chemical free treatments) self-esteem and sense of self-worth when every day of their lives they are having to deal with a body and a mind that they can’t seem to control. They fail academically which gives them a very poor prospect for a career that will sustain them financially. They fail socially so they often become reclusive, loners who have an extremely hard time relating to other people – and in the most extreme cases leads to anti-social and sometimes psychopathic behavior. (If you want to consider the extremes, that’s one for you.) The loneliness, the frustration of having so many wasted talents and the unshakeable feeling that you don’t belong in this world because of your differences often leads to depression and sometimes suicide. These are the things that keep me up at night as a Mom.

    To answer your question, what lead me to believe that the symptoms my son was experiencing after having been weaned off meds were a part of his disorder and not side effects of the meds is because when I looked back I realized he had quite a few of the same symptoms before he ever went on medication. I always disregarded them as quirks and idiosyncracies but the more I learned about TS, ADHD and OCD I realized those symptoms and behaviors had always been there.

    Kathryn, I am so sorry Sarah and I have hijacked your blog comments but I do believe that this conversation is really useful. Sometimes I don’t know how I truly feel about something until I have to explain it to someone else and reading our debate may help you and other people who read this make up their own minds. I’ve often found that the topic of medication is a little bit like religion or politics. People tend to get very passionate and polarized about it. In the end we all have to make our own choices and live with the consequences of those choices. Which is why I try very hard not to judge anyone’s decisions – especially when it comes to parenting. In the end we all are doing the very best that we can. I always joke that I was a perfect a mother until I had children of my own.

    Wishing you all the best with your awesome little man. : )

    • KL says:

      Hi Victoria. It’s all good as long as you both continue to be respectful. 🙂 I’m happy to provide a platform for your….discussion…

  13. Victoria, Canada says:

    Sarah, it’s been a really tough week so unfortunately my response will be brief and will not address all the things you beautifully expressed in your post so I apologize for that.

    In the end, I think it’s all a matter of degrees. I no doubt believe you that you had some struggles of your own as a child and that you were lucky enough to have a mother who supported you through those times without needing medical intervention. Consider yourself lucky. Suffice it to say that what we are dealing with with my son goes beyond having a few tics and meltdowns and our family life, while not perfect, is stable, loving and supportive as can be.

    For me the issue of medication will always come down to how badly does he need it (in other words, could he function relatively well without it) and do the benefits outweigh the present and potential side effects. And even when medication is used it is not the only intervention being used but only one of the many things we are doing (individually and as a family) to support him in his physical, emotional and cognitive development.

    Wishing you all the best.

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