Saturday, December 1, 2012

In Which Eastern Healing Meets Western Medicine And Everyone Is Better

[The latest issue of the South Roanoke Circle is out featuring my article. 
The website doesn't have the link up yet so the text of is below. 
Hope you like it.]

We’ve suspected (read: known) for quite some time that Eion B. was either ADD or ADHD. The signs were all there, and had been for a long while. That being said, I was vehemently and, surprising no one, vocally opposed to medication. He would outgrow it, I was quite sure. And even if he didn’t, why on earth would we drug a poor, defenseless child simply to make our lives easier? Yes, I knew, drugs were for the weak, the lazy and the unfortunate children of bad parents.

The inability to focus that came with ADD plagued Eion in school last year. Round about mid October, it became clear that he was struggling. He couldn’t read. He spent his recess walking laps because he misbehaved or was guilty of some other transgression. [Offenses of which I am sure he was justly convicted. You don’t even want to know about the calls I received from the TAG teacher.] He described himself as stupid and a troublemaker. My baby was falling through the cracks.

But being the resourceful (stubborn) Mom I am, that WAS NOT going to happen. So, in a move that baffled all who knew me, we pulled him out and became homeschoolers.

While he still had the attention span of a gnat, I was able to control his environment and the pace and flow of learning. We made progress. And I patted myself on the back for resisting the urge to simply turn to medication, the easy way out.

After a successful year of homeschool, we contemplated the future. We were able to keep him current with his contemporaries academically, but being isolated was making the social issues even more pronounced. He needed some socialization. So it was back to public school, repeating first grade, with the idea that the academics would be easy this time around, leaving him free to use his energy for everything else. Only it didn’t work out quite like that, and his inability to finish work in a timely manner persisted.

There was one difference in my approach this year. I was open to drugs.

At some point during The Great Homeschool Experiment, I ran into a friend at the gym and regaled her with tales of the morning’s frustrations and how I finally decided E was DONE for the day. She told me a story about her son and it changed our lives.

Her son was ADD too. He was older and they had not tried the medications available until he was in high school. She told me how happy he was and how he said it was easier to learn, to concentrate. How his life was better.

It was then that it dawned on me. I had always looked at ADD medications as something for my, for the adults’, benefit. I had never even once considered that they might make the child’s life easier.

So when things were derailing this fall, we said yes to drugs.

I still felt like a traitor as I dissolved that first dose in a glass, my heart leaping out of my chest thinking about the possible side effects. Would it work? Would he be the small percentage that went the opposite direction and became more hyper? Or worst of all, would he be that infinitesimal percentage that could suffer a fatal cardiac response to the medication? And if it went wrong, could I ever forgive myself?

Not to ruin the dramatic tension, but Eion lived. And thrived. The medication takes away all the hyper, allows him to focus in on things but does not, as I feared, leave him a drooling zombie, devoid of personality. His teachers say he is like a different child. (I assume in a good way.) But what I trusted the most was his response. He told me that the world was “less noisy” and that it was easier to make sentences.

At which point I had to take a deep breath, look in the mirror and say I was wrong. My sweet little boy had been battling demons, had carried this extra bourdon, because I had been too proud to try medicine. I had judged all those parents and I was wrong.

Score one for Western medicine.

During the year of homeschooling, I hurt my back. The funny thing was, it was not a dramatic incident or anything. It just started to hurt and never got better. So I rested, gave up tennis, running and weight lifting.

Rest didn’t work.

So I went to see my doctor, who referred me to physical therapy. PT was a godsend and restored me to mobility, and some occasional tennis. Over the summer, I continued all the exercises with unparalled commitment – I was the world’s model physical therapy patient. But still, the pain persisted. There were days when even getting out of bed brought me to tears and everything I wanted to do was out of reach.

I went back to the doctor and had x-rays, a MRI and several more appointments. In mid September, I was offered the choice of spinal steroid injections.

Being a complete sissy when it comes to needles (funny, as I am married to an ER doctor,) I hedged. I called my primary care physician to see what she thought. Between when I called her and when we spoke, I decided to go to a RAC yoga class. It was core strengthening, much like PT, so what could it hurt?

The class was both humbling  and exhilarating. Had you asked me a year prior, I would have told you there was no way in hell that I could become less flexible. Yet there I was, gingerly moving between poses, sometimes only moving an inch or two into a forward fold. But, a gigantic but, I walked out of that class feeling better that I had, literally, in months. That day, for the first time in forever, I was pain free.

The next day, still on a yoga high, I knew I could not wait until the next Sunday’s class. (And that 5:45 am class at the RAC was out.) So I went to Uttara, a yoga studio about which friends had raved but I had never visited. And I kept going back, as often as I could. I felt great, both physically and mentally. [You may not know this, but I am a wee bit high strung.] Those precious minutes of shavasana left me clear headed and at peace.

Not long after my yoga epiphany, the reports of meningitis from tainted steroid injections came out. All I could think was, I was one appointment away from (possibly) being infected myself. That could have been me. As I told the studio’s owner all this after a class that left me feeling particularly zen, she hugged me and said, “You came to the right place.”

Score one for Eastern healing.

I guess E and I are still a little broken. He needs his meds and I need my yoga classes. Without our crutches, we both revert back to less pleasant states. But we’re healing, be it on an Eastern or a Western path.



  1. Great picture, and a lovely piece. Nicely crafted!!

  2. Who isn't a little broken? I wouldn't call those I things "crutches", I would call them tools.