ADHD: Recovery After Methylphenidate Side Effects..

It’s is a long review sent to me by a patient’s mum.  It arrived at a weekend when I was away studying and I didn’t have my homeopath’s head on (it was only after this that I realised I have one and that it buffers me!)
It hit me like a punch in the guts, even though I knew he is now very well and happy.  I’d also heard all the details before, but I’d heard them in homeopath mode (when I tend to be working in an analytical, left brained  frame of mind), rather than in my usual, off duty mode.

International Homeopath treatment review

Anxiety (with Asperger’s and ADHD) in a ten year old boy.

Like most people, my attitude to health was pretty simple – take responsibility for yourself by eating well and taking regular exercise, “make good choices” they say, and when something falls out of your remit seek the advice of your GP.  They will search their arsenal – and that’s an impressive arsenal – maybe fix it, or pass you up to a specialist.  And they will fix you, or not, or at least have a very thorough look at you.  Anyway, you get the gist, it’s a great system.  A reassuring system.  You can get on with the business of Living Your Life safe in the knowledge that the docs have it covered.  Mostly.  Which is what we did until our son came along with Aspergers and ADHD.

Anyone who has been down this road knows how it goes.  After years of assuming you are a dreadful parent, your child is satanic/eccentric/wilful you run out of energy to disagree with everyone and seek help.  I refer you to the original system.  “I would like an appointment with whoever specialises in children’s behaviour at the surgery please!” Thank goodness! The system, at last, help is out there! You are only sorry it’s taken you so long, sorry you parented in a way which pleased everyone else and not your child, relieved that you don’t have to yell at them All The Time.  Dr GP Specialising in Children says… your child is just naughty and you do not discipline him properly.  He even goes so far as to tell you that he disciplines his own children ever so well and they aren’t naughty at all.  Battling on, you manage to secure a referral. Consultants finally give you a diagnosis.  Nothing changes.  At one point, the senior child specialist for the county pats me on the back and says “keep going”.  All they can think of to offer is Ritalin which of course you take despite the fact that everyone knows Ritalin is for the properly mental and dysfunctional.  And that is the end of the story as far as The System goes.

So where did this leave my son?  At three he ran away from nursery and came home. At five he planned a six-man escape over the infants school wall. At six he began self-harming to get out of PE and at seven, he wrote a suicide note and took a carving knife and tried to push it between his ribs.  He came out of school and never went back.

I didn’t even know what I wanted help with. At first I wanted him to want to be alive, then to stop hurting his brother, to stop hurting himself.  Maybe to be happy, to laugh and smile, to see the point in being alive.  As the damage four years of schooling did began to surface, so he began to unravel.  He couldn’t go upstairs on his own, couldn’t cope with any of his feelings, he began to be haunted by black fuzzy creatures that nobody else could see, waiting for him under furniture and in corners, a turn of phrase or the wrong type of pencil would make him repeatedly bang his head against the table, he made a will giving his toys to his brother and his pocket money back to me, he begged for his life to end.  On the rare occasions he was away from me he would bolt from his grandparents and run straight into a road to get home, he told me he would rather be dead than away from home.  Unable to cope with the demands of a bedtime routine he would escape through unlocked windows, wearing only pants, and hide in the dark. His brother became unable to sleep as he never knew what was going to happen to him.  I didn’t sleep in case I heard the click of a door or a window clasp opening.  He ate the wooden guard of his bunk bed, he ate three remote controls, countless items of clothing, special indestructible chew jewellery designed for children who eat things, entire toilet rolls, exercise books, library books.  His motor tics were so bad he begged me to make them stop.  He begged me to make his brain stop.  With neither risk awareness or any particular desire to be alive he climbed tall trees, boulders and rocks, bridges, walked out into seas, rivers and creeks. He was swept away in a creek in Australia before managing to pop up as a life guard raced to save him. Once I heard a muffled cry and found him entirely zipped inside a suitcase.  He rushed to greet every dog he saw even though he has had his scalp pierced doing so.  With no impulse control he can’t be left alone.
Ah, say the specialists, impulse control you say.  You need more Ritalin.  Side effects included loss of appetite, increased blood pressure and increased anxiety.  All of which I agreed to, all of which seemed preferable to running into a busy road or opening your car door on the motorway.  (Before you ask, I had put the child locks on but he had seen how it was done and reversed it).
This was not the answer.  Gradually the novelty of not being crushed under an articulated lorry or flying off The Roches wore off.  These things were not going to happen mainly because we could no longer leave the house.  If we did have to leave the house, he couldn’t leave the car.  If he did have to leave the car he would run away and hide.  If a car went past he would cling to me and shout, terrified it was going to kill me.  If we had to go into a shop he would just hide in a display or demand to know how many floors there were so that he could check every corner of the first floor because everybody knows that’s where the monsters are.  Six months into Ritalin I no longer just wanted him to want to be alive, I wanted him to not become insane.  Reduce the dose advised the specialist.  Welcome to no man’s land where you now have no impulse control but also all the side effects of the drugs you can’t tolerate which no longer control impulse control.

At which point you can see why I started looking into what a previous boyfriend once described as “sticking a garlic clove up your arse”.  It was time for homeopathy.  It was time to meet Sally.

We found Sally through her Treating Children’s Anxiety Naturally group and arranged a meeting.  Naturally, my other son was sick on the day so we reverted to a Skype appointment.  I had no expectations, mainly based on our history of People Who Say They Can Help Not Helping, but I did have a vague knowledge that homeopaths asked LOADS of specific questions.  And I like talking.

So first off, if there were no other benefits than this one it was worth it – Sally listened. She asked a lot of relevant questions, a lot of crazy ones (well, okay, crazy to a homeopath novice like me) and it felt like we were really listened to. That was pretty priceless in itself and a great way to begin a new treatment journey – full of confidence and hope. Both of these had been in short supply.

It was difficult to identify what exactly we wanted help with so I settled on anxiety. I could have chosen a lot of other issues – impulsivity, insomnia, enuresis, any of the neurological conditions associated with autism like his executive function, working memory but I figured if we can crack anxiety then the others will be a lot easier to manage. (I was right).

My son’s first treatment was sent and I took a lot of notes.  Over the next few months there were a lot of changes, everyone is different and I’m sure every treatment path is different. It’s not always easy or predictable. But we were used to ups and downs and also to reactions to medicines. We began the familiar journey to Sally’s welcoming home.

It’s hard to quantify the changes, to describe the journey. Somehow we got to where we are today:

Recently we had our scheduled appointment with the Child Specialist.  We have seen him regularly for four years and in that time my son has not spoken to him.  He curls up in a ball under a chair or climbs up the on the gurney because he knows he isn’t supposed to, or makes a lot of noise with the plastic toys so we can’t hear each other speak about him.  He will not have his blood pressure taken.  Once I restrained him in order to take it and the notes read “not an accurate reading due to distress”.  He did once communicate using the magnetic letters on the fridge in the waiting room.  “I hate him.” he wrote.  He usually runs out of the room before we have finished.  The Child Specialist is not a bad man, he is actually kind and sympathetic (“keep going”), he once opened his clinic half an hour early just to see me in my desperation.  But he doesn’t know how to help my son.  Before we go in I always ask my son if he will speak to him, answer his questions if he can, just say hello, acknowledge him.  He always agrees he will but then is overtaken by anxiety.  Despite the fact I knew we had made huge leaps forward, I was still nervous to go to this appointment.  We had the same conversation beforehand, my son agreed he would try and talk to him.  And this time he did.  He sat in the chair he was supposed to sit in, looked him in the eye and answered all his questions.  The Child Specialist was clearly shocked, he was delighted.  I was too.  My son shook his outstretched hand, he talked about his love of science, what he does in his lessons, he allowed him to put his arm around his shoulder and I think, there may have even been a gentle squeeze.  He was happy to discharge him.

When we go on a walk, he will walk. Not (always) refuse to go, run off, hide, scream but walk. Alongside an adult, talking to them. So much so that my father in law recently took me aside to question how could I possibly hope to home educate such an intelligent child. Other people can now see what I see. He walked for half an hour chatting to his father and held his hand, the whole time. Everyone who knows him remarks how much more relaxed he is, and he is, he really is. Life is not perfect, there are of course many more aspects to his autism and adhd which impact on all our lives daily but the anxiety is so much less.

I once had a one to one with an autism specialist who listened as I read out a long list of things my son couldn’t do. How can I teach him, what should I teach him I asked. He told me “teach him how to cope, and he will cope with anything.” I left bewildered by such a Herculean task but now, I really think it might have happened.

Alice Mace July 2016

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