Why Am I So Afraid for Him to Fail?

I’m no stranger to drugs.  I know things.  I know people.  I was aware, when I put my son on stimulants, that there could be side effects.

But it never occurred to me that those side effects would include depression.  My son, the enthusiastic, fun-loving optimist, is depressed.  He hates his life.  He feels unloved and unliked and unappreciated.

For weeks now – maybe months – I’ve believed that this was just a symptom of being a teenager.  His hormones are raging, I thought.  There’s nothing I can do.  We’ve had some pretty rough days, evenings, nights.  He’s spent time crying when I wouldn’t have expected him to cry.  The things he said were so morose, so incredibly sad.

And I could relate to those things.  I felt awful for most of my life.  I recognized the feelings as similar to mine. But I forgot that, for most of that time, I was severely depressed.  I hated myself, my life, my unapparent reason for existing.  So when these words came out of my son’s mouth – followed immediately by the comment that he would never, ever commit suicide though – I just figured he’d have to get through it, like I did.

Then tonight, after dinner – after yesterday’s drawn out, emotionally draining, six-hour moan, whine, sob session…  Tonight we noticed that he was 100% normal and happy.  Unlike many, many days when he comes home from school, tonight he was happy.

He had a field trip today.  He doesn’t take medication when he goes on field trips, because he doesn’t need it to focus on the teacher.

And for the first time – in all these months, in all this time, even with all the warnings – the things he would say about not feeling like himself … Tonight, for the first time, I realized that my enthusiastic, optimistic son is having a reaction to the drugs.

OF COURSE he is having a reaction to the drugs!  They are stimulants, which eventually cause a crash.  And the longer one takes the stimulants, the harder that crash can be.  He is having a reaction to the drugs.

I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.  He’s been on the same drug – in an increasing dosage – for two years and two months.  He doesn’t take it on weekends, or in the summer.  And we’ve never, ever had a knock-down, drag-out horror session like the one we had last night unless he was taking medication.  We haven’t had one because without the drugs, he feels fine.

Later, I’ll rehash everything we tried – for years and years and years – before we tried medicine.  I’ll tell the story of the miracle drug that changed his life.

But for now, we have to get off this drug.  I am calling the neurologist in the morning to see if we can get an appointment and discuss our options.  Maybe we can try a new drug.  Maybe it will be better.  Maybe we can try the Feingold Diet (the only natural cure we haven’t tried yet).  Maybe we will just send him to school with his under-focusing brain and let him be himself – and miserable with school, instead of inside himself.

Funny thing is, we decided to medicate him the day we learned that unmedicated kids with ADHD are 80% more likely to become addicted to drugs as teenagers – while trying to medicate themselves.  At least, that’s the statistic we heard.

What if we work on his self-esteem, stay vigilant about positive reinforcements, and pump him up instead of making him feel like he needs drugs to keep up?  What if we let him try 7th grade his way?

And why am I so afraid for him to fail, as long as he is happy, healthy and brilliant?  Einstein was one of school’s biggest failures ever.  Maybe Dylan – honestly – is okay being like Albert Einstein.  And why on earth am I concerned about that?

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