In case you’re wondering, yes, I am aware ADHD medication exists. And I don’t want to seem terribly literary, but remember when the gentlemen come to Mr. Scrooge, asking for a donation to help the poor and destitute at Christmas? And he has the callous and unfeeling response: “And the … workhouses? … Are they still in operation?” That’s how I feel about putting McDiesel on meds. Like I’m sending him to the workhouse—a dreaded and dreadful place. Scrooge knew there was someplace for the poor to go. He didn’t have to help or give or get involved because there was always the workhouse. That’s where those unfortunate people belonged.

Out of the blue—not near Christmastime at all—I realized Dickens’ specter of the workhouse sums up my deep-down attitude toward ADHD meds. A last resort, the point of no return, a signal I’ve given up all hope, a move to dread and fear and stave off desperately. Maybe if I just help and give and get involved a little more. Have I really been diligent with the calming essential oils? Didn’t I let McDiesel eat the candy that came with his class valentines just the other day? Am I really trying??

Yes, yes, I know this is not completely rational. And maybe medication can help. But lots of people suffered and died in workhouses. And even if they didn’t die, many didn’t come back out. They couldn’t make it in the world on their own.

Still (and ironically), we hopefully hold the possibility of medication out there. We imagine it redesigning our little boy, making him the better version of himself. We are, after all, thoroughly American. On a hard day when nothing works, we cling to this: “At least there is medication!” We are so lucky! There is medication that can fix our little boy. (Not all our friends can say the same.) Someday—when he’s older, when there’s more data, when the drugs are further perfected, when the FDA approves, when every single homeopathic/ naturopathic/organic/hippie alternative has failed, when I don’t feel like I’m giving up on him, when I don’t feel so guilty—someday it will be easier. Someday the medication will make all the difference. Someday I won’t feel like I’m abandoning my son to the workhouse.

Until then, I imagine I’m saving him from something—but I don’t even know what. Side effects? An irrevocably altered brain? But maybe I’m just standing in the way of him being his best four-year-old self.

All the same, I know how dangerous silver-bullet thinking is. I’ve read the blogs and articles. I know the mothers who also said, “At least there is medication!”—and then the medication did not save the day.

What then?

Nights are long when you’re puzzling all this out.

3 thoughts on “Workhouse

  1. We felt the same way. We had him tested for IgG food sensitivities and totally revamped his diet. We removed gluten, casein, soy, sunflower, and eggs. It’s been a year and a half and he’s still on that diet. But we also came to the conclusion that ADHD is a life-alterning illness and we that we could no more deny him the medication that would help him function than we could deny him insulin if he were diabetic. The meds were an absolute godsend and help him to participate in many of the activities of childhood that he was missing out on. They didn’t change his personality at all, it just helped him be the “him” he couldn’t be.

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