So, we all have our challenges, right….

This blog is mainly about Mariella and our challenges with her asthma and her tummy “issue”. I do have an older daughter as well. I’d love to say that her life goes along swimmingly, with no problems…but I’d be a liar if I did. We’re in a nice, stable patch with her right now…but I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell a little bit of her story.

Abigayle was born in 2000. She was a month early, due to the fact that I was toxemic. I basically skipped right over pre-eclampsia and went straight to the doctor saying, “I’m surprised you’re not seizing already.” Due to my Gestational Diabetes, she was still a big baby (over 7 lbs) but she lost almost 2 lbs in the hospital before she came home. She behaved in the manner of most preemies. She was sleepy, she didn’t feed well, and she was cold all the time, but we got through it.
She was a good baby. Other than her little blip of RSV, where she spent 12 days in PICU, she was a healthy baby. She still has reactive airways, but it’s manageable.
Abby’s struggles are a little harder to define. At about 18 months old, we started realizing that her tantrums were coming far more often than a “typical child” By the time she was three, she was having tantrums upwards of 20 times a day. Some would pass relatively quickly, others lasted for hours. They often were about things as minor as the fact that I gave her the wrong purple cup…even if the purple cup I gave her was IDENTICAL to the cup she wanted.
She also stopped sleeping. She would be messing around her room until 2 or 3 in the morning, and then be up for the day at 6AM. We were all exhausted. I finally brought her to the doctor and asked, no, BEGGED them to fix her. She started on Clonidine at that point, and it was wonderful…for the first time in a long time, she was sleeping. It didn’t help the tantrums, or the defiance, or the other behavior issues…but at least I wasn’t so sleep deprived that it was IMPOSSIBLE to deal with them. It was still DIFFICULT to deal with them, but not impossible.
We started to just give in to whatever she wanted…anything to avoid a tantrum, or a rage. She went from being a sweet, cuddly, loving little girl to a child who was prickly, angry, and distant. We began seeing a therapist, who was basically useless. She would send us out to the waiting room, and then not tell us what was happening in the session. I’m all about confidentiality in therapy…for teens and adults…NOT a three year old. We left that therapist, and muddled through for a while, until we began seeing another therapist. This was a behavioral psychologist, and the therapy was as much for me as it was for her. He taught me tools to deal with the rages and the anger and the defiance. He also realized that she was beyond his scope, and that she most likely needed medication. A scary, scary thought when your child isn’t yet 5.
He helped us find a child psychiatrist who would probably be willing to prescribe medication for such a young child. We met with her, and we talked about all the possibilities. In young children, many of the psychiatric illnesses look the same. It was terrifying to hear things like “pediatric bipolar disorder” and “very early onset schizophrenia” along with the more “typical” diagnosis, like Oppositional Defiance Disorder and depression, and Autism.
Because I was diagnosed with depression in college, and when going over my history, the doctor mentioned that I probably should have been medicated when I was two…and the fact that Abby is a carbon copy of me at that age…we were pretty confident that we were looking at depression and anxiety. We made the decision to treat her with Zoloft. Within a month, things looked SO much better. She was still a challenge, and she still had rages and tantrums, but the severity and the sheer number of them went down. (It’s important to note that Abby’s first words were “Hi, Dada” into a pretend phone, at just over 6 months of age. Communication, or lack there of were never at the root of her tantrums…though, lack of ability to communicate are the typical cause of toddler tantrums)
In those early days, we still had real, scary things to deal with. When Mariella was about two weeks old, I came out of the bathroom to find Abby with a pillow over the baby’s face. When I asked her what she was doing, she looked at me, and said, “I’m trying to kill the baby.” There was also the time when she asked me something, and my answer was “not right now…in couple minutes” and she looked at me and said “I’m so sad with you, I’m going to cut myself into a million pieces.” So, I didn’t go to the bathroom alone for almost 2 years, and all the knives, including butter knives, were stored on top of the refrigerator.
Things a so much better now. I always know when she’s due for a med adjustment…she gets more irritable, more defiant, and rages more easily. These times are fewer and farther between, as she isn’t growing quite as fast as she was as a toddler and preschooler.
She was also diagnosed with ADHD at about this time, but we chose not to treat the ADHD at that time. It was hard enough to make the decision to start an antidepressant, I just couldn’t start a stimulant at the same time. She did OK in preschool, she had a horrible teacher in kindergarten, but first and second grade were also pretty good. In third grade, she started to really have trouble, so we made the decision to begin ADDerall, and it’s one of those times when I feel like kicking myself, and start waiting for the “Bad Mom of the Year” award to be brought to my house. She is doing so well on the new med.
We still see some ‘red flag’ behaviors, and I still wouldn’t be surprised if at sometime Abby is given a spectrum diagnosis. If she does fall on the spectrum, she is high on the spectrum, and is functioning well enough. She has a plethora of sensory integration issues, tactile defensiveness, and other such things. She struggles socially. Her psychiatrist said those things can also be attributed to the fact that she is gifted, so really who knows. A diagnosis won’t change anything…and we won’t persue it, unless we have to.
She thrives in school. She craves the structure that school gives to her. She flounders at home on weekends and vacations. I try to structure our day, but it just isn’t possible to do so to the extent that she would like. It makes it difficult sometimes, be we handle it.
Abby comes by many of her issues honestly. As I said, I was diagnosed with depression when I was in college. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the same time. There is a diagnostic tool call the Adult Connor’s Scale, and I answered every question appropriately for ADHD. The doctor looked at me and said…”you graduated from high school….REALLY?…HOW?” According to him, I was one of the most severely affected adults with ADHD that he had ever met. I have always opted not to be treated, because, well…”I’ve functioned well enough so far.” Though, according to Abby’s psychiatrist, I’m not functioning “well enough.” So I went to the doctor yesterday, and will be starting ADDerall tomorrow morning. We decided that it works so well for Abby, and she is so like me, that it will probably work well for me. I’m hopeful, and I’ll let you know how it all goes.
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4 Responses to “So, we all have our challenges, right….”


  1. 1 Amy May 26, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    I know the toll that issues like this can take on the caregiver–while I’m not dealing w/them myself, I have a 9 yo relative on the autism spectrum & w/ADHD. His mother describes very similar behavior and the strong need for structure and, as a result, the way much of her day is spent not being able to let her guard down. It can’t have been easy for you.

    I’m very, very glad you guys have been able to find something that helps Abby, and I hope it works just as well for you. I also hope you don’t beat yourself up too much about avoiding the ADHD meds in the beginning. I mean, I know it probably doesn’t help, but of all the parents I know dealing w/chronic issues, whether in-person or online, I can’t think of even ONE that didn’t do the very same thing. Including me. It’s so hard to accept daily meds for a child–it feels so wrong that a child should have a medication regimen at all.

    Thanks for sharing this, Sara. I know writing it probably wasn’t easy.

  2. 2 Sara C. May 27, 2010 at 3:19 am

    Thanks, Amy. I’m in sort of a zen place with Abby. It is what it is. She’s fairly well aware of her diagnosis (to a point that she can understand it) and I’m about as well versed in the subject of pediatric psychological disorders as I am in uncontrolled asthma. I think it’s because of her challenges that I worry so much about things being “fair”

    As for me…holy moly…I didn’t expect to feel a real difference the first day…but I DID…makes me wonder why I didn’t pull the trigger on this a LONG time ago. I’ve been talking about it forever. I was asking a friend…”is this what NORMAL feels like? I could get used to this.” It’s amazing how strange “normal” feels, when one is so used to “not normal”

  3. 3 Danielle May 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Tough as nails you all are. I second Amy, I’m sure it wasn’t easy to post this but thank you for doing so.
    I hope you have good luck with the meds for yourself. You totally deserve it.

  4. 4 Tash May 31, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Sara. How are things going now you’ve done the Adderal for nearly a week?

    On a personal note, reading this post gave me a lot to think about, and maybe cleared a few things up for myself.. stuff to think about, maybe share later on my own blog.


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