This is part of a month-long series that my teen daughter and I are writing about her life and learning to live with epilepsy. To start at the beginning, click here.
I've been reluctant to medicate my kids forever, but especially when they were little. Sure, I'd give them Tylenol or Advil if they got a high fever or cold medicine if they were really uncomfortable and an antibiotic if necessary. But for the first eight years that I was a parent, I shied away from medications as much as I could. It went along with my whole "I'm going to breastfeed my babies until they're at least a year old" and "no formula ever" theories that I held at the time.
Basically, the more natural sources my kids had, the better. If that hadn't worked out, then formula would have been fine. But if I could do it, I would. Same with medications. If they were truly uncomfortable, then I would given them something. But if we could power through safely without drugs, we would.
And then epilepsy entered our lives. And epilepsy doesn't give you much choice.
What I found was that all of epilepsy is scary but what's scarier than the actual diagnosis is the unknown. And medicating our five-year-old little girl was a huge unknown to us. Would the meds stop her seizures? Stop her migraines? She was starting kindergarten and just learning to read. How would a strong anticonvulsant affect her cognitively? Many seizure meds cause fatigue, forgetfulness, and slight memory loss. How could she possibly handle all-day kindergarten and learn to read with those kinds of side effects? It was all a huge unknown and very scary.
And I was angry. Angry that this little girl had to deal with this. Angry that I had to put big drugs into her little body. Angry that I even had to explain all of this to her. Angry that school might become difficult for her. And more scared than you can even imagine.
But what I learned was that it's all a balancing act. What's better for her? Medicating her and dealing with the side effects or going through life with uncontrolled seizures?
Pardon the pun, but that's a no-brainer. You need to stop the seizures. Uncontrolled seizures aren't good for brain health and there's always the risk of falling and getting injured. Not to mention how uncertain and traumatic it is for anyone, especially a child, to go through life knowing that they could seize any minute.
Over these past eight years of living with Beth's epilepsy, other parents have asked me a lot of questions about seizures and about medications. When I'm approached by other scared parents and they mention how scared they are to medicate their children, the first thing I say is that they need to get on meds ASAP. You have to stop the seizures.
Looking back, I'm so glad that I was able to start my kids off with fewer artificial sources of nutrition and fewer medications, but when life changes, you have to change with it.
Medications are difficult, and navigating side effects just plain sucks, but they have saved Beth's life. And I'm eternally grateful that these medications exist.
*If you'd like to read all of our 31 Days posts about living with epilepsy, click on the button on the sidebar or start here. And if you're wondering what the heck is going on and who Beth is, click here. :)