Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Better Living thru Chemistry...ha!

Ten months ago I almost wrote a post (at the suggestion of a puffed up psychiatrist in a fallen economy) portraying Reid as the poster child for the benefits of Abilify. Overnight, it seemed last December, the amp was turned down on his rage. His ability could shine without the glare of interruption or explosion. Suddenly, there was a filter on his impulses and reactions. I totally understood how they had named this product.

The dramatic change was epitomized by his entrance on the morning bus. He walked slowly down our brick walk, stepped lightly into the bus, said "good morning" in a regular voice, and calmly took his assigned seat. I wish I had a picture of what could only have been captured previously on video. Lightning fast, he had been in the habit of bolting out the door, storming the still moving vehicle, darting to his seat nearly decapitating anything in the path of the swinging backpack on his shoulder, then plopping down with a dramatic thud.

This new, slower, calmer demeanor came as a great relief to our household. I realized one morning how significantly the "right med" could impact him socially as well as improve others' perception of him. No longer did peers have to duck and cover when they saw him coming. This would certainly foster conversation and friendship. And it did for 10 months. I was celebrating with friends, family, and pharmacists all over town.

BUT, we just reached the end of our Abilify rope. Agitation, obsession, and perseveration at an all time high, I pulled the plug after a sleepless, prayerful night last Saturday deciding cold turkey was the way to go. There was no denying the tense stuck-ness and resulting mania was chemically induced, debilitating, and as bad if not worse than the pre-Abilify symptoms we were supposed to be addressing.

Drugs are serious folks, not to be reckoned with lightly. Allie had an annoying, persistent bug last week. In desperation facing some mandatory commitments she couldn't shirk, we visited the on-call Saturday doc at the medical center we don't frequent. He non-chalantly prescribed doxycycline for what he presumed was walking pneumonia. Less than 48 hours later she could not breath or eat and was clinging to me in fear at bedtime. "I feel worse, Mom, don't leave," she cried. Calling Jim in to hold her hand, I quickly google searched an explanation. She was suffering from notorious allergic reactions and/or side effects to the drug itself. Not prone to rush to the hospital, we rode it out by pumping tons of water and running instead to our chiropractor nutritionist the next morning.

She is on the mend after he adjusted her hiatal hernia and prescribed two nutritional supplements to restore the healthy flora in her intestinal track. Allie learned an important lesson in comparing health care modalities and avoiding use of controlled substances.

I stand assured that my previous caution remains the way to go. During the Abilify-honeymoon, I nearly apologized to the docs (and Reid) for waiting so long to medicate. We were slow to try anything, preferring to exhaust the natural alternatives of the DAN! protocol, the Pfeiffer Clinic, osteopathy, solid nutrition supplements, fish oil, and any other non-invasive option that came our way.

We eventually did trials of at least five indicated drugs only to experience adverse effects. Hives, vomiting, and face-down distress on manhole covers at recess convinced us to halt and fast. Every med undeniably complicated matters and added more variables to the equation. Until Abilify. It seemed to be the magic bullet. But no. Woe, there is no such thing.

"Life is a long process," as Jim says. We forage on in search of workable solutions for the chapter at hand. As my dear friend, Carolyn, pointed out to me years ago over another matter, God often tells us just one step at a time. When his directions seem counter-intuitive it doesn't mean we heard them wrong. He just tends to keep us attentive, flexible, nimble and never idle.

Case in point, when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, He meant it. As bizarre and horrifying as it was, Abraham complied. Then at the top of the hill, at the eleventh hour, God provided a ram in the thicket, telling Abraham to unbind poor Isaac. He meant that too. Abraham heard and obeyed both times. What if he had only listened the first time? What if he'd stubbornly refused the second time sticking to his guns saying, "No, I won't untie Isaac, I was told to sacrifice him and I will no matter what."

Many things don't make sense to me. Maybe that is why I'm quoting platitudes. My mom is known to say, "we walk in the light that we have." At any given time, we pray, listen, and follow. Abilify was then. This is now. I don't look back with regret but with gratitude for lessons learned and the process of elimination.

Switching doctors once again, I am getting the lay of the chemical landscape. Hope remains that this new doctor's old school approach (with drugs that have been around longer) will yield benefits that can be sustained. I am forever on my knees listening and always on the lookout for a substitute in the bushes.

You know I'll keep you posted.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

So Abraham called that place The LORD will provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." Genesis 22:13-15

Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them Nehemiah 9:19-21


  1. Life is a long process and often the Lord only leads us one step at a time. I'm glad for the lessons you learned on Abilify.

    We drug our feet for five years before we finally agreed to try medications. We wanted to do everything else possible before we went down this road. In the end, just small doses an anti-anxiety medication and ADHD med has made a huge difference. Like the doctor explained, "Mrs. Howe, can you learn Spanish when your house is on fire? NO! You are only thinking about surviving. What you just described about Jonathan tells me that his house is on fire. Even if you can take the edge off his anxiety and ADHD, you'll see a huge difference in his ability to learn what you are trying to teach him. It might even help him learn enough so at some point he won't need the meds."

  2. What a wonderful post.

    We too had a honeymoon with Abilify and Risperdal and Depakote and countless others before we did a med wash and went pretty much drug-free with my son. We still have all the behaviors but at least he is more alert, more himself now.

    Thanks for the reminder about God's messages. This really hits home for me. I love your mom's saying. I have to remember that one.

  3. Thank you for the post. I'm concerned though that your daughter's reaction was actually allergy to doxycycline, and not an increase in lung effusion due to pneumonia. My own kids (both autistic) and my husband and I each had the H1N1 flu this summer. My husband landed directly in pneumonia and severe intestinal complications. Because he wouldn't do what I say. ;) My children, however, when their breathing was getting raspy, I took matters into my own hands and gave them nebulizer treatments of ventolin AND prednisone (steroid) solution, easing the inflamation so they could breathe and cough. I'm becoming alarmed that so many doctors treat lung illness strictly with antibiotics and ignore the inflammatory nature of pneumonia. No matter how many antibiotics one is on, if one can't breathe, one won't survive the illness! As I frequently quote Hunter S. Thompson: Call on God, but row away from the rocks!

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