How Hard It Was Before: Pour Your Heart Out

It was not a day for yoga pants, a messy bun, or moisturizer-only skin care.

I carefully curled my hair after meticulously applying my make up.

I dressed in what I hoped read as confident soccer mom instead of mom who was so nervous her stomach was eating itself.

After picking up my son from school, I drove us to the doctor appointment that was giving me such anxiety.

Not because things were bad.

But because things were good. And I needed the doctor to agree with me that all was well and no changes were needed.

My child who had struggled so much due to lead poisoning, mild autism, and extreme ADHD was thriving. From being behind in everything at school to being on grade level or even ahead. From having daily tasks cause drama and heartache and stress to having them be no big deal. The changes in him over the past year and a half were phenomenal.


But I know that the majority of these positive changes were because I drug my childas those other parents who don’t have a child like mine and haven’t witnessed the changes call it.

And at my son’s last medication check-in, the pediatrician had cautioned that unless he showed some weight gain by the next appointment, we would have to look at other treatments, ones that don’t have a side effect of a loss of appetite.

I looked at his sweet face in my rearview mirror as we drove along and I hoped that we’d hear he’d gained enough.

My stomach churned, wondering if the doctor would write him another prescription and let life go on in the way it had been or if we were in for changes.

The nurse weighed him upon our arrival, not making him take off his thick hoodie. Her numbers matched mine, but I didn’t know if they’d be enough.

She measured him and I almost insisted she do it again because that number was a half inch shorter than when I’d carefully measured him at home and I was pretty sure he’d slouched for her.

Once the doctor came into the exam room, we caught up on how my son was doing at school, at home, around others.

I used my carefully constructed put-together mom look to project confidence as I shared just how well he’d been doing at school and how much easier everything is for him in his day-to-day life, including interactions with others and almost no meltdowns.

She asked what he was like on days when he didn’t have his medication and my façade crumbled a little.

Hard, I admitted. Really, really hard. Every little thing can set him off. Silly things that aren’t a big deal on any other day, like being kindly reminded that he wasn’t allowed to take his snack into the living room. On a medication day, he would say okay and sit at the kitchen table. On a day without a pill, that gentle reminder can cause him to sob, cause him to yell that he never does anything right, and make him cry that I don’t love him any more. He’s much more emotional and takes things much harder than they should ever be taken, much harder than they are taken on pill days.

The doctor made a note and asked what else happens on those no pill days.

I explained that he’s more likely to lash out. That it’s best to keep him and his brothers separated on those days. That if they aren’t, someone should be right there with them because things can get out of hand. Not in a well, all brothers fight way, but in a someone could get hurt way.

She made another note and then asked why he had those days without a pill, if it was because he’d been experiencing any side effects.

I paused and explained that aside from the lack of appetite during the main part of the day and it taking longer for him to fall asleep, there were no side effects. Seeing her confusion, I continued by explaining that I was worried that if he didn’t gain enough weight, he’d be taken off the pills entirely. And even though those days off were hard, I didn’t want to go back to having every single day be that challenging.

She frowned and looked at his chart and then let me know that his growth was just fine and then she asked me what I thought days were like for him, for our whole family, when he took his pill.

I took a moment to run my fingers through my son’s hair, being careful not to disturb the headphones he wore while he was playing some game I’ll never understand but that had his full attention during my conversation with the doctor.

Those days are good. They are easy. They’re so much easier on my son.  He’s able to interact with us, with his family, with teachers, with friends at school and have it mostly all be positive. He only gets upset over the big things, not every little thing. On those days, everyone else gets to see the sweet, loving boy that I see.

I think, I admitted, that he feels like a part of things on those days when he’s had a pill. Not like the world is going on around him and he’s separate, someone being attacked by all things and left alone, all at the same time.

The doctor told me that well then, it sounds like the medication is working as it should be. And she told me that there was no reason for any days off. That newer studies are showing the kids with ADHD are experiencing problems with self-esteem and relationships, that feeling that they can’t do anything right and that the world hates them stemming from the hard days when they have to be corrected and them internalizing that into a deep feeling of low self-worth.

So if by staying on the medication, he has fewer moments like that, then he should be on it. That maybe we should even go ahead and give him the afternoon booster pill every day that previously we’d reserved for when we were going somewhere at night or having company over. And that if his weight became an issue, we’d deal with that in some other way.

Everything she said, it made sense. It validated my experiences with pill days and no pill days.

I trained my gaze down on the stylish boots I’d dug out from the back of my closet that afternoon and confessed, fully demolishing my attempt at being that confident mom who has it all under control, “I didn’t realize how hard it was before. I mean, I knew things were hard. I knew it wasn’t easy. I knew we had rough days. But until we had days and weeks and months of everything not being so hard… that’s when I realized just how hard things were before. I was terrified you were going to tell me we had to go back to that. Scared for him. And scared for me.”

I looked up at her with tears in my eyes, ruining that so-called waterproof mascara. But she just nodded her head and told me that what I just said tells her what she already suspected, that we were dong the right thing for my son.

Last Week’s Pour Your Heart Out Highlights

Join in Pour Your Heart Out

pour your heart out Click if you want to find out more about Pour Your Heart Out. Remember, it’s about what you want to pour out: it’s personal, so there isn’t an assigned topic. It’s also about being supportive of others who are sharing: so visit other linkers and be kind with your comments. Linking up? Please visit at least two of the linkers and show them some support in the form of a comment or a share!


  1. says

    I love that you liked my post! I plan on linking up this week, too. I was reading this and it dawned on me that even though our kids battle different things, we have some of the same experiences. I dread our CF appointments for the same reason you dreaded this one. I am always afraid that they are going to add things for me to do and I’m already overwhelmed. I’m afraid I am going to leave there with life being harder. Plus, if they don’t gain weight, I get a lecture and a fear of their health deteriorating. It scares me so I completely get your anxiety for this and I am so happy that it went in the way that you had hoped and that life will stay easier.
    AnnMarie recently posted..For the New Parents of a TeenagerMy Profile

  2. says

    I get happy chills when I read about how well he is doing, and how it’s changed so much for you, your family, and the people around your sweet boy. I am so glad you have a doctor who takes the time to listen and work with you to find the right solution for HIM. xo
    angela recently posted..While Beauty Slept – A ReviewMy Profile

  3. says

    I am so glad for you and your family that things are going well, and that you are staying the course for what works for him. 

    Here’s to more great days head!

  4. says

    Gracious!  I’m so happy to be linking up again!

    On a more serious note, I’m so glad to hear about Bear’s continued success. As to the stress, I said something similar the other day; that you dont’ realize how hard it is until the stressor is taken away and then it’s like, “Oh, so this is what it’s supposed to be like…”
    Single Mom in the South recently posted..When It’sToo Personal to BlogMy Profile

  5. says

    I’m so glad you have found something that works for him, and for you, and that you have a doctor willing to listen to you.  I totally understand the need to dress in “confident soccer mom” clothes to have to deal with something stressful like this visit.  Sometimes I think of my clothes as my armor like I’m going into battle or something.  
    MJ recently posted..Overwhelmed.My Profile

  6. says

    I love this Shell… it’s so real and so raw. I get it. I look back on my life with my daughter and all we endured and I think how much harder it actually was, now that things are healthy and steady and secure. It’s amazing what we moms go through with our kids… and the strength and perseverance we hold for them.

    I thank God that your son has the medicine to help him, to help you- to make things- easier. And to give him a life he deserves. To give YOU a life you deserve.
    Chris Carter recently posted..My Top Ten Blogs To Share!My Profile

    • Shell says

      It’s like when we are in the middle of something, we can’t let ourselves admit just how hard it is… it’s not like it will help, it will just make it seem more overwhelming than it already is. But looking back, I’m amazed at all we were able to make it through.

  7. says

    I’m so glad to hear that your son is doing so well!  Making choices about medication can be really difficult and it’s made more difficult by so many people with an opinion!  Keep up the great work mom!  It’s making a huge difference for your son!
    Lisa Thompson recently posted..TOMS SaleMy Profile

  8. says

    My brother was on medication for his ADD, Dyslexia and other issues that sounds much like your son. He was a shrimp until he made the choice (himself) to come off his medication. He grew over 3.5 inches in ONE summer, and is now 6′ tall, highly functioning adult, who needed MUCH structure in his life, and works for the Coast Guard. He is a happy contributing adult. 
    Lindsey @ Redhead Baby Mama recently posted..WW: #Snowjam2014 PlaytimeMy Profile

  9. says

    Wow,  I had no ideas the struggles mothers could face dealing with ADHD. Thank you for opening up and sharing your struggles and triumphs. I don’t have kids but my heart went out to you as you wrote about trying to make the right decisions for your son and your family. I am so glad he is doing well.
    Tracey recently posted..WTF WednesdayMy Profile

  10. says

    I’m with you sister! If I could find a medication that would stop Bethany from having violent days she’d be on it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the few that we’ve tried have made her behavior worse. All we both want is for our kids to have happy and successful lives and if a pill helps then so be it, I say! I totally understand that dread you were feeling. I’m really happy for you that things are so much better and that you can keep them that way!
    Sylvia recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: Enough Snow Already!My Profile

  11. Cynedra says

    Thank you so much for writing this, Shell. We go on Monday for a follow-up with my son’s neurologist. Based on our initial meeting, it seems likely that he is going to prescribe medication for him. He’s already small for his age as well as being one of the youngest in his class (oh how I wish I had red-shirted him). I’ve more or less gotten my head around it, and the school is supposed to be starting on a 504 plan for him, but the school psychologist calls today and says the are working on it, but that his grades improved from the first to second nine weeks so he isn’t sure it is really necessary. Uggh. He has no clue what I have to go through every afternoon to get him to and keep him at C grades. The meltdowns etc. The teachers, etc that have watched him doing testing basically want to be able to tell him to focus on the work when he has the BIG standardized testing in April. They’ve seen him start fiddling with his hair, stare at the ceiling, etc, during the smaller standardized testing when they aren’t allowed to say anything. His behavior, although not as severe as your son’s, sounds very similar including calling himself stupid. Anyway, I talked way more than I should, but thanks again.

    • Shell says

      I was leery of medication before we started it and then I wished we’d started it earlier after I saw the positive changes. Fight for that 504. Just because he’s doing okay in school doesn’t mean he still couldn’t benefit from some modifications and having a plan in place.

  12. says

    OH Shell, I can relate to this. My daughter’s ADHD medication lessens her appetite for lunch. Thankfully, she eats enough at other times make up for it and her growth has never been a problem. I think ONCE it looked like she might not be eating enough, but that’s it. She is now 13 1/2 weighs 102 pounds and is almost as tall as me. If anything, I’d say perhaps puberty is going kind of slow for her. But that’s not something I really mind!
    Jennifer Hall recently posted..Because of Chronic IllnessMy Profile

    • Shell says

      We make sure he has a big breakfast and then he has a second dinner later at night when he gets his appetite back. He is small, but then again, he weighs a lot more than I did at his age. I’ll be okay if it slows down puberty!

  13. brett says

    how wonderful he’s thriving!! if he’s doing well, that’s what matters. he’s lucky he has you in his corner every step of the way <3

  14. says

    Yay! So happy for both of you and the entire family. I had the feeling that “drugging” Molly is someone harming her, but the days she doesn’t take her pill she is JUST. SO. HARD. Way to go Mommy!!
    Peg recently posted..Another CommentMy Profile

  15. says

    Well, you know I can relate. My son has autism and ADHD. He’s “drugged.” And yes, some people have tried to make me feel bad about it, which drives me insane. To shut them up I usually say, “Why don’t you spend one day in my son’s mind without medication and tell me how you feel.” My son would frequently say that his brain was “too loud for him” before medication. Or “my brain won’t let me hold still. I want to, but my  brain won’t let me.” So yes. Medication is a big help for us too. 
    Amber recently posted..Hey, It’s Okay Tuesday!My Profile

    • Shell says

      There were some members of my family who were very against the medication. And then they saw the difference when he was on it and they all shut up. My son is so unhappy on the days when he doesn’t have his medication. Everything is just so dang hard for him when he’s not on it.

  16. says

    I’m glad that there aren’t going to be any non-pill days in your future. That you can continue with the better days. I can’t imagine the struggle that you were going through and I’m so happy that everyone is doing well. 
    Marta recently posted..The First Fifty Days.My Profile

  17. says

    Thank-you for sharing that heart warming story about your son and his medicine. Mine is not special needs in any form, but he is extra and I have had to advocate in different circumstances for him. Don’t be afraid to stand up to the doctor and demand something equally as effective, let him know you are partners and not there to do as told. Well, tat is what I have had to do, lets just hope he keeps gaining weight!
    thanks you so much, Mitch
    Mitch recently posted..World Premiere of First Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer! @Guardians @prattprattprattMy Profile

  18. says

    Thank you so much for baring your soul. I am so blessed to be able to have this view into your life. While I don’t fully understand I do know that we have modern medicine for a reason and pray that you and the doctors can find what’s best to have a healthy, happy little guy. He’s so amazingly adorable! You are blessed, but he’s blessed to have you as his mom too. xoxo
    Jennifer Bullock {MommyBKnowsBest} recently posted..SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord ReviewMy Profile

  19. says

    I completely relate to this post. My younger brother has dandy walker syndrome and autistic tendencies but is not actually diagnosed as autistic. He is very low-functioning, he can’t do anything on his own and has someone with him any time of the day except when he’s sleeping. When we were a lot younger and doctors were trying to find a balance of medication for him, life was HARD. I totally understand what you are going through and I also know that sometimes, people just need medication to balance everything out for them. It shouldn’t be taboo. If that person can live a better quality of life, and the people around them can live a better quality of life, then why not take that opportunity? Kudos to you for recognizing your sons needs and using your best judgment.
    Chelsea recently posted..10 ways to brighten up your living spaceMy Profile

  20. Jacqueline says

    As the hippies would say, “jah bless.” I am so sorry you guys hd a rough patch, but that was a wonderful outcome that I wasn’t expecting. Your little man is adorbale!

  21. says

    Your post brings tears to my eyes….you sound just like my daughter.  My grandson has ADHD and she is so done with people that say “She drugs her child”.  Having a supportive and caring doctor is so important and you and my daughter have both found that. 

  22. says

    Thank you for taking the time to share such a personal experience about your family and your cutie pie son. I can’t even imagine going through what you have with your situation. It sounds tough and your son is very lucky to have a strong mommy by his sad. A close friend of mine has a son with ADHD and she has always shared her struggles with me. You are lucky to have a doctor that sits, listens, and is looking out for the best interest of your son. Some of them want you in and out so quickly that they don’t even assess the situation correctly.
    Jessica recently posted..Mommy ♡ Daughter Date: The Young At Art Museum #YoungAtArtMy Profile

  23. says

    You are a fantastic writer, I felt like I was sitting right there beside you. I’m so glad the treatment is helping your son. I can’t imagine going through a struggle like that. My husband’s co worker has a son that has an extremely rare disease (only 3 people in the entire world have it). They have had SO many problems with him and a really hard time. They just had a 2nd baby who is healthy and normal. It’s so interesting hearing them say things like I didn’t realize how “easy” it is to raise a normal child. Makes me think and reevaluate my own opinion on child raising.
    Janel recently posted..Bouy Chair by Turnstone – Review and GiveawayMy Profile

  24. says

    Aww, I was crying with you at the end. I’m glad you were validated in your efforts, and I wish you well with your continued journey.

  25. says

    Medication can be so tricky and scary! We’ve only tried one for Josh (he has Autism) but took him off because he stopped eating! Sometimes it’s hard…do you start him on a medication….do you not. I would love for him to learn to deal with things on his own but if I can avoid him having anxiety I would! I’m glad things are going better for you both!!
    Amanda recently posted..Free Ebooks (2/19)My Profile

  26. Eliz Frank says

    I do hope some solution is found that works for all You are doing the best you can… Sending hugs your way.

  27. says

    So happy for you and your family and your son!  And glad your medical team has found a medication that is right for him and a dose that is right for him! 

  28. says

    I am so very happy for you ALL!  I have been in a similar boat and the difference is amazing.  I hope you never let anyone make you feel badly for medicating your son; it’s so obviously working for him and your family, and it’s the decision of you and your family and your doc – nobody else.
    cyndy recently posted..6 Years LaterMy Profile

  29. says

    Oh girl I am so so happy to read this, so glad the doctor agreed and so so happy for the progress he has been able to make!  So truly wonderful.  On those days where I need extra confidence or courage I definitely take more time to dress nicely too :)
    Emmy recently posted..10 Things to Smile About in FebruaryMy Profile