Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Anxiety of Giving Your Child Medication

Last week pretty much sucked for my oldest son. He struggled socially at high school, depression revealed its ugly head and he became overwhelmed with his increasing homework.

Then on Thursday night, while having our boys get ready for bed, our oldest son became dizzy and started sweating all over. His color didn’t look good and he complained that he was having trouble breathing as he panted for breaths while lying on the floor.

My husband and I looked at one another, not sure what we should do, he was getting air, but was breathing too fast. We’re fortunate that we have neighbors that work in the medical field so we quickly called them over to check out our son to see if we needed to take him to the ER.

It’s hard in these moments to not think the worse... what if his body is reacting to his medications? 

I’m not naive, I know these meds come at a price, the risk of serious side effects will always remain, especially the longer he remains on them. A part of me is always afraid that one day we will have to face this. I consider this every single week when I fill his pill box with so many medications. 

It makes my gut ache.

Our neighbors arrived and quickly went through vital signs and covered all the current variables our son has. Are his Lithium levels becoming toxic due to the heat wave? Are his compromised kidneys (due to reflux) struggling? Is his thyroid off? Is he eating and drinking enough in the day? Is this an anxiety attack triggered by stress?

We monitored his symptoms until he recovered and decided to keep a close watch on him at home. Our neighbor, an ER nurse, and her paramedic husband thought it was safe to keep him home, thinking that it might have been a panic attack.

The next day our son woke up a little extra tired but has been fine since. His psychiatrist had no explanation for the episode. We spent the next few days trying to remove stress and help with his depression by giving him positive things to focus on. By the weekend he was smiling again and doing fine.

I share this story not to scare parents from trying medications, we still acknowledge the importance of treating our son with medication, but I share this for those like me who always carry this weight of concern. I don’t think we ever come to peace with the decision to medicate, or live without fear of consequences. It’s one of those unfortunate decisions where you choose the lesser of two evils. 

Yes, I wish my son never had to take medications, but at the same time, living without them is not an option right now. I can’t let my fear of possible side effects prevent our son from getting the treatment he needs to thrive. 

Over any other treatment option we tried, my son feels that medication was the only thing that has made a difference. I am encouraged and thankful that my son can so clearly communicate this to us and have reminded myself of this when I feel my own anxiety about him taking so much medication.

As time passes, the longer our child is stable, we don’t have the daily reminder of why he has to take so many medications. Like the pain of childbirth, our experiences of our raging child wanting to hurt himself becomes foggy and the constant mood swings becomes a thing of the past. 

That’s the challenge with invisible illnesses, the evidence of the illness can be hidden by the treatment. That’s why so many people relapse when they quit their medications without the direction of their doctor. They feel better and no longer see the need for their medication. Unfortunately for some, upon quitting their meds, the symptoms quickly return and in some cases it leads to suicide.

As a mom with a stable child, I continue to live with a degree of anxiety about my child taking medication. Should he continue to take so much? Can we reduce his meds or even wean them off someday? Will he need it for the rest of his life? How much is too much? Will the side effects harm him? If we remove them too soon will the results be devastating?

I write this post today for the mama who is struggling as she sits at the counter with bottles of medications, counting out the pills for the week. 

I’m there with you, I feel it too.

You’re not alone.


  1. Thank you for sharing. I too struggle with this with the two of my children. The one just beginning college scares me to death. She is depressed and anxiety about school is really hight at this time. I know the stats on breakdown's of young adults with her diagnosis in the first year of college and am trying to keep my momma's heart close to God's comfort of knowing she knows Him and He will not let go of her.

    On another note their is not one day I am reminded of how my 8 year old child needs his medicines to stabilize his moods and lower anxiety so he is able to sleep at night. In fact tonight is a "bad" night. Where a real high dose of night meds plus 3 drop gums of melatonin usually knocks him out within 40 minutes of ingestion, tonight his meds have not worked. Its almost 1am and I have my 8 year old trying to tire himself and asking me questions of why is he different than his other siblings. Everyone but him in occasions can't sleep. What to tell him? Although I am falling asleep here I told him not to worry that mommy can't sleep ether so we will keep each other company and help each other to fall asleep. I smile at the his sweet smile as he tells me that he understands me and that I should not worry that he will keep me company! l love my sweet boy! well good night...or better said good morning....I am really worried we won't be able to get up for church tomorrow!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, sorry it was a rough night, I really like your perspective of keeping momma's heart close to God's comfort, that is the only way to truly get through these difficult times.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. Many times I have felt crushing worry over the amount of medication my child is on. Embarrassment when I send him on Boy Scout outings but the only reason he is able to go on these outings is thanks to the medications. I am lucky to have a psychiatrist who has found the right meds to manage what had been unmanageable. My child now has a childhood that he can look back on, friends he spend time with, and a little bit of peace in his life. Meds are a blessing and curse - it's only a matter of finding the right ones. Do I wish we didn't have to be on this road, of course. But on this road I am. I will do the best with what I have been given and knowing the current state of affairs in community mental health treatment - I am more than blessed! It is not always easy or quick to find good mental health care. My child's future is uncertain and that is what turns my stomach and causes me grief. I can only keep counting the good "today's" and hope they will build a strong enough foundation for the future. I'm with you Mama Bear. You are a loving mom and your kids are lucky to have you! Hang Tough!

    1. I appreciate you reminding me that the reason our child can experience friends, outings etc. is because of the medication. I do feel blessed that he can have this stability as he grows into adulthood.

  3. Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution whatever the illness in this world :( It's always a matter of choosing the lesser evil :(

    Maybe one day, scientists will find a different way. But right now, this field has more questions than answers.

    In the meantime, whatever the kind of illness, it's a matter of choosing the lesser evil. There's no perfect solution.

  4. I haven't read your blog for quite sometime, but I understand the feelings and what ifs regarding medicating my child. He is 13 now, and suddenly things are different. He is starting to reject taking his meds. We're on a slippery slope.