By summer of 2014 we were looking to move and that was at the forefront of business. I got my middle two daughters involved in a youth program in our local community earlier that spring, and it was going well until there were some issues with other kids in the program (who often also had behavioral issues) that didn’t use appropriate language. So they stopped going. The kids had finished school and were just starting to enjoy the first few days of summer and I realized I just didn’t have enough structure in place. Things eventually spun out of control with her behavior and she had to be hospitalized late summer. That was an incredibly hard and frustrating experience. She came home on a new regimen of meds and I immediately began researching the side effects and tinkering with even more things to eliminate from her diet. I just wasn’t satisfied that prescription meds were the ultimate, or whole answer. I was really sick of the cold, cookie-cutter try-this-drug-or-that answers I was getting. Not one single professional offered any insight outside of prescription meds. If you can imagine pulling a brick house up the side of a mountain, that’s what I felt like.
She was put on Abilify as a mood stabilizer, and came home with a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder. We were closing on a small home and trying to get everything ready for the big move at the end of the month. She did have some mood regulation with the Abilify, but she was so lethargic all the time and had no appetite. Over the next few weeks her symptoms worsened. We moved into our new home at the beginning of September, but the following day as we were coming back to our new home someone ran a stop sign and plowed right into us. It was traumatic for my 3rd daughter to say the least. Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured but our van was totaled.
Just a few short days later, my daughter’s symptoms became unmanageable. She could hardly eat, breathe, and complained of horrific stomach pains and dizziness. I had her taken by squad to the nearest Children’s Hospital ER. I remember sitting in the room with her in the ER and the doctor just looked at me and said, “I think your daughter has Diabetes.” My jaw hit the floor! “There is just NO way…!”, I remember thinking to myself. That was September 11th
The odd part is, Diabetes Type 1 doesn’t run in either of our families. We don’t eat unhealthy. She was chubby but not obese. High Fructose Corn Syrup is not an ingredient I let my kids have. But Diabetes Type 1 as I learned, is not caused by a poor diet. It’s an autoimmune disorder, and there’s no cure. The researcher in me just couldn’t wrap my brain around not finding evidence of anybody ever healing of this ailment. I was devastated for her. She was angry, sad, and in complete denial. She was not coping well. Neither was I. I was angry. I was angry that I couldn’t figure out how to help my child. I was angry at her behavior. And after the devastation and hopelessness, I was angry she had Diabetes. After a few conversations with different professionals where I blamed the Abilify for triggering this, it was pointed out that the most likely trigger for her Diabetes was the Risperdol her pediatrician prescribed the year before. Talk about guilt….
After she was allowed to come home, we had so much to adapt to. New home with new problems. New neighborhood. New School. No vehicle. And now Diabetes Type 1. I was completely heartbroken for my daughter. Everything had changed. We jokingly call her a “foodie” because she loves to cook and bake (and of course eat!) and dreams of opening her own bakery one day. All I could think about was how she would never enjoy being carefree and eating what she wanted, when she wanted. Now she had to think about everything. I also developed debilitating anxiety that was affecting every area of my life. I couldn’t go to the grocery store without freaking out. Who lives this way?!?
It wasn’t more than 2 weeks after she came home and was consequently off of Abilify, and her behavior had escalated beyond what we could physically manage at home. She was aggressive, violent, made suicidal statements, and completely out of control. She wasn’t following the protocal for her Diabetes and was hospitalized again. I was emotionally and physically exhausted, to say the least. The other kids were just existing in this very unhappy bubble, wondering if things would ever get better. It took two hospitalizations, and many assessments later to add ADHD onto her already standing diagnosis of ODD. I was a little confused by this. She didn’t struggle in school, in fact she was top of her class. She didn’t share the symptoms of inattentiveness or distractedness with her oldest sister, and she certainly wasn’t “hyperactive”.
But there are different types of ADHD. More than 3. NAMI and other organizations only cite 3, and this is usually the standart that is used in most psychological/psychiatric practices. Dr. Amen, who takes a more personalized approach in treatment plans which very often include natural supplements, says there are 7 types. Dr. Amen is an ADHD expert with 6 clinics nationwide, a podcast, and is an author of many books including “Change Your Brain Change Your Life.” Just like there are different types of other neurological disorders (depression, autism, epilepsy, anxiety, etc), there are variations of ADHD and they’re all quite different. Even with different types of any neurological disorder, it all comes down to the individual! And this, in my opinion, is exactly what’s missing from our medical practices here in the US. You can listen to Dr. Amen’s podcast on the 7 types of ADHD and watch the slides he’s referencing here.
Dr. Amen’s approach fascinates me. Mostly because of his desire to constantly improve and his personalized approach with each patient. I think this is a HUGE problem in Allopathic (traditional) Medicine- they want to put a ‘one size fits all’ treatment on everyone. His clinics have had wild success treating and healing ADHD with well rounded approaches including elimination diets, exercise, natural supplementation, prescription meds when necessary, and brain exercises just to name a few. What’s so neat about how he diagnoses the type of ADHD and therefore can accurately treat their form of ADHD, is he starts with a SPECT brain scan. SPECT is a technology that measures blood flow and activity in areas of the brain in images, showing what areas are active, underactive, or overactive. How can you aim to treat or heal anything if you don’t have the specific data to paint a target?
Today with the help of behavioral therapy, strategies, supplements and yes, unfortunately prescription medication, my daughter is living a fairly normal life. Our journey is not over as there are always new things to be learned and implemented. My goal is to help my daughter heal, perform and feel well with as little (or none) prescription medication as every medication carries side effects. As I do so, I will share these things with you in hopes that you will have the courage to look outside of what traditional medicine has to say about what your son or daughter should do to manage their ADHD symptoms, and start your own journey. It’s not just about popping a pill, it’s not just about symptom management. It’s about healing areas of the brain and body that have a deficit.