My 10 year old grand daughter Preslee called me yesterday afternoon with a “Guess what day it is question?” This usually only happens on Hump Day, as I guess that joke never gets old to a 10 year old, but since it was not Wednesday and not a holiday, I was scrambling to search my brain for what I had forgotten. She didn’t leave me dangling out there too long, as bursting with excitement she told me it was the end of the first six weeks at school. She had made it. She had lived up to our bargain. I wanted to weep.
Before I get started I want you to know I cleared this with my daughter Whitney, after all, it’s really Preslee and her story to tell. I let her read it first and she gave me her blessing.
Preslee has always been bright, articulate, funny, vivacious, empathetic and with the vocabulary of an adult, but, and that’s a big but, she can also be hell to be around and the polar opposite of those things if she is in one of her “moods.” When her meltdowns started to deviate past what you would consider normal childhood behavior, her parents got her help and she was eventually diagnosed with anxiety, ADD, ODD and Big Personality (whatever that means). Her Mom has a Master’s Degree in Special Education and works as a diagnostician for a regional education service center. She has extensive knowledge and resources in dealing with kids that have these kinds of problems and Preslee’s problems were never ignored or treated like “oh, she’ll outgrow it.” Whitney has had Preslee in counseling since she was five, five, let that sink in. She has been in counseling half of her life because she’s been so miserable. Can you imagine, as a parent, what it must feel like to know your baby wishes she’d never been born, that as a five, six, seven year old she could feel that hopeless, that all she wants is to be like a normal kid? As a grandparent, it was heartbreaking. Whitney must have found it almost unbearable, but she is a strong woman and continually looked for ways to relieve not only Preslee’s distress, but the entire family’s, because if you think something like this doesn’t disrupt the entire family, you’d be wrong.
Finally, as a last resort, as bouts of behavior became worse, Preslee was put on anti-depressents and ADHD medications. Her therapist suggested it and her pediatrician wrote the prescriptions. Over the next several years, she went through several different protocols, better for the first few weeks and then gradually getting worse and more frequent than before.
Reading this you might think things were a living hell, and in some ways they were, but 90% of the time Preslee was her happy, bubbly, exuberant self. She would keep you in stitches and was fun to be around…but she was a bit like a ticking bomb and you never knew what was going to set her off. The more people, noise, distractions, the more likely a combustion. I’m sure overstimulation and her ADHD had something to do with it. For instance, she spends a week with Joe and me each summer and she is perfect. We’ve never had a minutes problem with her but it’s just the three of us and it’s generally calm and quiet around here. What I’m trying to say is much of the time she is a delightful child and fun to be around, but when she has a spell it can be heartbreakingly bad, because in those moments she absolutely believes no one loves her and we would be better off without her. It tears your heart out to hear her.
By 4th grade last year, her behavior had escalated to the point she was acting out in school. She was probably in the Principal’s office once or twice a week, not to mention her grades were suffering. Things were spiraling out of control. Finally, after encouragement from me, my Mother and her sister who is a pharmacist, and because she had tried everything else, Whitney found a very good child psychiatrist in Ft. Worth that specializes in medications. Preslee’s pediatrician is very good but out of his area when it comes to something like this. In a town the size of Wichita Falls you only have so many options. The new doctor discovered that even though they had tried Preslee on several different drugs, they were all the same class of drugs, and as it turns out, even though they made the ADHD better, they made the anxiety much worse. What we thought was deterioration of behavior was the type of drugs she was on! She was put on a different class of drug and it was like a totally different child almost over night. Well, maybe not quite that fast but the change was quickly evident. That’s not to say that she still doesn’t occasionally have a meltdown, but they are much less frequent and don’t last nearly as long and contain less drama. They also seem to be triggered by overstimulation of some type.
I could weep with happiness…and sadness at four years of misery that sweet girl, and her stressed out mother and family have had to endure over something that could have largely been avoided if we had just known. Four years of a child feeling worthless and unloved and a mother feeling helpless in the face of her child’s pain, working tirelessly to find anything and everything to help change her perspective, to convince her otherwise. Four years of an entire family caught in the grips of this “thing” that effects them all. Yes, I weep for happiness that we have turned a corner and I weep with sadness at what was suffered for so long because we didn’t realize that much of her downward spiral was medication related.
If you have a child or know of a child that has a similar diagnosis and seems to get better in one area but worse in another, don’t hesitate to at least check on the medication they are taking. Find someone that specializes in children and those types of medications. Pediatricians are dedicated doctors and we couldn’t do without them, but they are not always up to date or well versed in the kind of drugs needed for ADHD and anxiety in children. If they are not getting better, keep trying.
So, back to our story, at the beginning of the 5th grade school year Preslee and I struck a bargain, a bargain I would never have been in danger of paying off last year, if she didn’t get sent to the Principal’s office once during the first six weeks, I would buy her whatever pair of Vans she wanted. Apparently, Van tennis shoes were the big thing…six weeks ago. Not only did she not get sent to the Principal’s office, the only “mark” she got in class was for forgetting her library book one day. I am so freaking proud of that girl! And the great thing is you could tell by her voice during the call that started this blog she was proud of herself. Our beautiful, brave girl sailed through the first six weeks without a hitch. Alas, Vans have gone by the wayside in the last six weeks. Did I mind getting getting her a “disco hydro blast” instead, she asked. At least that’s what I heard.
Me: A what?
Preslee: You’ve heard of the disco girls, right?
Me: Heard of them? Hell, I was one.
Whitney: Mom, not disco, VSCO. They are popular right now, wear scrunchies…
Me: So did disco girls.
We didn’t make much progress from there, but I did Google it and I won’t bore you with the details because it will be something else next month. Enjoy your 15 minutes VSCO Girls. Anyway, what she wants is a special $45 VSCO Hydro Flask insulated water bottled that she is going to put stickers all over so that you might as well have bought a $10 bottle and no one would have known the difference. I don’t care. She earned every bit of that bottle and I’ve never enjoyed buying anything as much.