Yesterday was Alex’s eleventh birthday. At first, I was going to write a post reminiscing on how Alex used to be so sweet and happy and calm; and I was going to compare that to how worried I was about his escalating aggression and lack of self-control. But, yesterday went so well. He was excited and hyper, but he was happy and having a great time. I decided not to write that post.
Today. Today, Alex fell off a chair. It wasn’t a big fall, and he wasn’t badly hurt. He landed on his side, and it was clear to me that he struck the side of his face when he landed. The skin was extra white and a little puffy. I tried to help him, but helping him became a wrestling match. He was hurt and wanted to lash out. He needed to lash out. And that’s the way things have been lately. When things go wrong, Alex’s frustration and anxiety shoot through the proverbial roof, and he melts down almost immediately, except instead of melting down he lashes out: biting, pinching, hitting, and kicking whoever he can reach.
We’ve tried everything we know to do. We’ve tried everything the school staff knows to do. We’ve sought outside advice. But none of it has worked. Alex’s aggressive behaviors are getting worse. He’s ability to concentrate on his work and self-regulate is getting worse. He’s out of his own control. It’s not just that he’s out of my control or the school’s control; he’s out of his own control. And we’ve tried everything short of medicine to alleviate his distress.
I hate the idea of drugging my child. There is such an ugly history of using chemical restraints to induce external control on individuals with psychological or developmental differences. It’s an ugly, ugly history and I want no part of it. I don’t want to force my child to take drugs so he can be manageable. And that is what I see. I don’t think of it as medicine, but as a chemical restraint, an attempt to make him manageable. And I don’t want any part of it.
But today…. What if Alex had been seriously hurt? What if he needed to go to the emergency room? Considering the trouble I had examining him after his fall I know we would have needed physical restraints to hold him. If he had a neck or head injury, he could have done himself serious damage, just struggling to lash out. If he needed emergency care, they would have drugged him just so they could treat him. It wouldn’t be something that’s right for him. It wouldn’t be something given to him in monitored doses. It would have been chemical restraints given in an emergency situation so he could be treated for his injuries.
I don’t know that the medication that’s been recommended will prevent that need. I don’t know what it will do, and the doctors aren’t really sure either. It’s an attempt. It’s an experiment. And I hate that, too.
But, if it works, it will help reduce the aggression and the anxiety, it will help him stay calm and self-regulated, it will help him learn and communicate. It may make a big, big difference in his quality of life. And that would be wonderful
And if it doesn’t work, we can stop it. Try something else.
But I still don’t like it. I find the very idea repugnant. But we’re out of options. If the situation continues as it is, it’s just going to get worse. Alex doesn’t need to get much bigger before he’s truly dangerous to himself and others. And that’s not Alex—it’s not the sweet, happy person Alex could be.
After yesterday and today, and all the many days in the past, it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Alex is probably bi-polar like his father. And as rough as that is, that’s not what’s bothering me. As rough as the behaviors are, they’re not what’s bothering me. And it’s not just the need for medication, either.
Even knowing there is no answer, I want to know why. Why is Alex the one who has to go through all of this? Willy and Ben are autistic. They’re just autistic, but being autistic is enough of a challenge in this world. Alex is autistic, with (formerly) bad tonsils and bad adenoids, bad eyes, hernias, nutritional deficiencies and resistance to the special diet that would address those deficiencies, and now probable manic-depression. Why are Willy and Ben basically healthy and well-adjusted? Why is Alex not? Why does Alex have to deal with all of these complications?
It’s not that I wish Willy and Ben were more sick. Of course not. But why does Alex have to go through so much?