I chanced upon a post by the excellent Kristina Chew today, that referred to her son Charlie taking his Medication so I quickly clicked on to the link and found out that Charlie is on the same meds as Bratty.
And I felt validated.
You see, I always feel a bit guilty about Bratty's medication. When a parent is having trouble with sleep issues especially, I want to try to help and recommend things we tried that might work for them. But the truth is, we didn't really get a good night sleep until Bratty started on medication, this time last year.
The short story is that she was no longer herself. Her anxiety, frustration and obsessive compulsive behaviours had become so intolerable that we were in danger of breaking down as a family. And when she was angry she got violent. We were living in fear of her getting upset and it was horrendous. A very big part of the problem was communication. She didn't have the words to describe what her problem was (usually something to do with change) so she would hunt me down to scream at me until I fixed it. And it was a very hard cycle to break. The more she screamed the more we tried to do what she wanted.
Now when you learn about ABA they teach you this stuff about how the consequences control the behaviour. And as parents we have to decide whether we are going to give in straight away, or not at all. It's like whether you are going to be a coke machine, or a slot machine. When you put a coin in a coke machine, you expect a coke to come out. If it doesn't, you might bang on the side, or even give it a bit of a shake. But you rarely give it another coin.
A slot machine is different. A slot machine is programmed by an evil gambling corporation to pay out sometimes. It actually rewards your persistence by letting you put a few coins in, then win. Then a few more coins, then another win. Until you are sitting there feeding it coin after coin only pausing to accept the wins before starting all over again.
Compare this to a hassled and tired parent in the supermarket with their kids. As soon as you get in the doors, the kids see a snack, toy or DVD that they want and they ask for it. Coke machine parent says YES. Puts it in the trolley and completes shopping in record time. Slot machine parent says NO, kids say can we can we? Parent says no, kids say: Can we CAN WE! and then continues to nag from trolley all the way around the aisles until harried and hassled parent gives in, gets the goodies and then stops by the liquor aisle to drown out the pain.
Of course, SuperParent might have landed in your local supermarket in a lycra jumpsuit and pulling off their helmet says to their kids "NO!, you cannot have a treat, Have a sandwich back in the car!"
And the kids will go along with that, because they know that last time and every other time they played "can we can we". They lost. The coke machine didn't pay out.
The moral of the story is, decide if you are going to give in or hold out. And if you decide to hold out, be prepared to go the distance as the reward will be sweet.
Well Bratty can go for 2 1/2 hours. She can scream so loud you have an actual ringing in your ears, like after a concert. She used to sleep in our bed (not our idea) and would kick us both when she wasn't getting her way. I used to put her in the car and drive up and down the freeway with her; we got stopped by the police once but the young guard wasn't going to mess with the crazy lady in the dressing gown, so he waved us on.
We got some help from a young keen behaviourist who recommended Mark Durand's book "Sleep Better". I read it and after doing some charts I realised I shouldn't be doing anything "fun" during a tantrum so I stopped taking her for drives. We bought a double bed for her room in a similar style to ours and put all our bedding on it. And I started sitting up with her in her own bed until she fell asleep. That is where this blog was born after all; in those hours on the laptop. And when she was asleep, I would creep out, one toe at a time, freezing if I thought she had stirred.
We used melatonin to turn on her sleep reflex, and a weighted blanket to make her feel like our weight was still over her legs.
But she still didn't sleep through the night. And when she woke up, she screamed.
There is a reason they use sleep deprivation as torture. It works.
When the neighbors started knocking on the walls (to tell us what? that she was screaming?)
I used to go insane with anger. One night it went on and on and I ended up sleeping in the car with Bratty. And the next day I was like one of those people you see on Jerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle; screaming like a harridan at the Pig in Knickers next door.
One day, P.I.K. actually banged on the wall at lunchtime; because Bratty had been squealing over a video and I put on some Cuban heeled RM Williams boots and danced a Tarantella on the (wooden) landing.
I was seriously on the edge.
And then we got help. A psychiatrist visited us on referral and after assessing Bratty we started (after a few other tries) on Respiradone.
As Kristina explains on her excellent blog: "Risperdal* can now be used to treat aggression, “irritability,” and “deliberate self-injury " And “it has been shown to be beneficial in treating the associated behavioral disturbances that can interfere with school, learning and family life.”
Family Life? That's us then.
So there is my guilty little secret out in the open. There are side effects. Along the way Bratty gained a lot of weight, then lost it when we changed meds.
We were starting to reduce her dose considerably after she changed schools. Thenew school's structure and organisation seemed to calm her anxiety and she was blossoming. We were down to half a tab.
But then the holidays started and life went to hell again. So we upped the dose.
One more week until school starts and I can start looking out for any changes and maybe start chipping the corner off the orodispersible tab again. I don't like medicating my daughter. So I do want to reduce the dose. And with her new school placement, that could be possible in time. Which would be nice.
But the truth is that someone in this house was always medicating. When Bratty was at her worst, Mr Hammie and I were getting through 8 or 9 bottles of wine per week. Sometimes more.
I would have a couple of glasses every day. Mr Hammie considerably more. And on weekends, there was more.
It was the only way to dull down the constant anxiety and tension in our house. Because if Bratty wasn't screaming then she was probably about to.
And it was a good way of sleeping through a mild tantrum.
It was not healthy, but as a Special Mum friend of mine once said as she was doing her not inconsiderable bottle re-cycling:
"at least we're not on anti-depressants".
I am pleased to say that I cannot remember the last time we had to go to the bottle bank.
Mr Hammie doesn't drink at all anymore. He has a big bowl of icecream and fruit in the evenings to deal with the sugar cravings. And he has never looked better.
And I am down to one glass a day; a little more on weekends.
I did over indulge a week or so ago. I was feeling very depressed. Bratty was bad, we had increased the meds but they hadn't kicked in. And I had one of those moments when you look at how developmentally delayed she is, and I just fell into the black hole.
Drank a lot, cried myself to sleep and in the morning I felt dreadful.
Alcohol is a Depressant.
You can use it to dull the edges and relax after a stressful day. In small amounts. But it will not cheer you up.
For that, you need a clear head.
I don't recommend medication is a route that everyone should take. We wouldn't even consider it for Boo.
It. Is. Not. The. Cure.
But it has helped us become a stronger and happier family.
* Risperdal is the brand name for risperidone, in our case an orodispersible "quicklet".