When they say that there’s no such thing as a quick fix, they aren’t kidding. Not that I was expecting the Big Cheese to be a quick fix. I knew better than to believe that simply giving him a pill would make everything okay. I might have hoped that it would fix everything, but my luck has never been that good.
We were one month into taking 15mg of Focalin. We had started with 5mg and increased to 10mg and finally landed on 15mg. It seemed to be helping him. We were pleased. The doctor was pleased. The reports from school were good. He was able to stay on task, finish his work, stay in his seat, and pay attention. Yes, he was finally able to pay attention. It felt like we were moving forward and finally helping our son.
It was weird to me what a difference a little pill could make. By the time he was on 10mg we noticed major differences in his school work. His handwriting had drastically improved. He suddenly passed 3 multiplication timed tests in one week. His homework load went way down (little did we realized that the reason for so much homework was because he wasn’t getting it done in class.) It felt that we had given our bright, intelligent son the tools that he needed to succeed.
But. (Isn’t there always a but?)
He didn’t seem…happy. He just seemed sort of…blah. Indifferent. Sullen. Sullen was the word that I used to describe him. And on top of that, when his medication would start to wear off in the afternoon (he was on a time released capsule that would last about 8 hours) he would become very grumpy and irritated. He was like me when I get tired or hungry or worse–both.
It seemed that we had traded one problem for another. Sibling relationships can be hard enough when you are 6- and 9-years-old, but they can become right down disastrous when one of the brothers is coming down hard off his meds. When I asked his teacher if she was seeing any differences in his personality now that he was on medication she replied, “He doesn’t seem to be the playful puppy that he once was.”
On top of the attitude and emotional issues, there were the appetite and sleeping problems. Two very common side effects, the Big Cheese had them both in spades. He would eat breakfast, but had no desire to eat any lunch, didn’t want an after-school snack, and would barely eat dinner. Around 9 o’clock, when he was supposed to be sleeping, he would come downstairs asking for something to eat. We’d give him a little Melatonin, a bowl of Cheerios, and pray that he’d fall asleep before midnight.
Did I mention how much he didn’t like taking his meds? At first, he did fine. We talked about how much it would help him and he was cool with it. But after a while, he started to fight us on it. Have you ever had to fight a kid to get him to take his medicine? Was it a miserable experience for you? Yeah, imagine having to do that every single morning.
Let’s review. Improvement in school work, paying attention, good. Sullen, irritated, grumpy, not eating, not sleeping, bad.
So back to the doctor we went. I knew from the many discussion boards concerning ADHD/ADD that I had started visiting that this was very common. Difficulties in finding the exact medication that would work for your child was the norm. I had hoped that we would be the rare exception.
Life’s never that easy.