Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Gluten Conspiracy

Don't worry, I'm not about to go off on some tangent about how gluten is the devil and the government is covering it all up in order to subsidize wheat farmers. Gluten is the devil, however, at least when fed to my child.

See, that's what all this has come down to. Well, not all, but at least the problems Bear has been having for the last few months.

Let me back up a bit. When Bear was first diagnosed with ADHD and ODD in the spring of 2009 (is that all????), my very cautious family doctor wouldn't start him on meds until we had his heart tested. Off we trotted to the local medical lab for the test, the results of which prompted a phone call from our doctor. The tests had shown an abnormality and he was referring us to a pediatric heart specialist for further testing. We knew it would be six months to a year before we'd get into the specialist and then probably another few months before we'd get any meds sorted out, so we decided to visit a naturopath in the meantime. (For the record, Bear's heart was just fine. The machine had been calibrated for adults, not children, so his results were quite normal. Grrrrrr...)

The naturopath suggested we test Bear for heavy metals and food sensitivities, so we did. Heavy metals came back normal, but the results of the food sensitivities showed that Bear was off-the-charts sensitive (no kidding...our naturopath had never seen results like this) for eggs, gluten, soy, sunflower, and casein. We eliminated everything and fed him nothing but water and grass for three weeks. Fine...kidding...but we did eliminate all the offending foods and stuck to that diet for over two years. The difference in Bear's behaviour was night and day. His aggression and defiance nosedived (nosedove?), and his ability to concentrate increased noticeably, all within a week. This was a whole new Bear.

Every now and then over the course of the first year we would either test Bear with one of the offending foods or discover the hard way that he had eaten some of the forbidden fruit. (Don't believe me? Read A Boy, a Granola Bar, and a Suspension.) He would immediately spiral back into days of aggression and meltdowns. We learned to cancel all plans and just ride it out. After the first year, we decided to just keep on truckin' with the diet -- no more trying to reintroduce anything.

As it happened, we were at my in-laws this summer and they invited us to stay for dinner. As we hadn't planned on staying, we had nothing for Bear to eat. Oh well, we thought. We hadn't tested Bear on gluten in probably a year, so why not try him with a sandwich and see what happens. The poor little guy was in seventh heaven with his peanut butter and jam on white bread.

The next day we waited for the big kaboom...and we waited...and we waited. So we gave him some more gluten. And we waited...and waited...and...nothing. We put everything back into his diet and we didn't notice any change in his behaviour. Hallelujah!!!! Suddenly, we were back to living like a semi-normal family. Bear ate like a horse; he put on pounds and grew inches. It was amazing. And still no problems.

School started, and no problems. If anything, he was doing better than ever before. The teachers and administrators couldn't get over this "new" Bear.

And then it started. The regression. A behaviour here. A behaviour there. About a week ago it became apparent that something needed to be done, so I called the doctor to get an appointment. Knowing it would probably be a few weeks (months?) before we could get in, The ODD Dad and I discussed putting Bear back on his diet. Should we? Shouldn't we? Would it help? Would he do it?

So we did, except this time we only removed gluten. Bear had the worst reaction to gluten, so we figured we'd start there. Within five days, Bear had re-emerged from under the cloud of anger and aggression he'd been living under for weeks (months?). My Bear. My sweet Bear. My loving Bear. My funny Bear. My precious Bear. My baby Bear.

He's back.

I missed him.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Forget the Recession -- Let's Talk Regression

There's no denying that recessions are bad things, but I'm willing to bet that the "R" word that really strikes fear into the heart of the ADHD/ODD parent (or any other parent whose child has a mental illness, for that matter) is a different one.

Forget the recession...let's talk regression. Regression starts slowly, with a few long-forgotten behaviours.

"Wow!" you say to yourself or to your partner, "We haven't had to deal with that in a long time. Remember when that was an everyday occurrence?" And you smugly pat yourself on the back for having gotten your child past that stage without having smothered the little darling in the middle of the night.

And then another behaviour rears its ugly head. Or perhaps you see that first behaviour more often, and you begin to wonder what's going on.

But the behaviour is sporadic, so you kind of forget about it in between episodes. Except you don't really forget about it, because you can't. Because you're the parent of a child with a mental illness, so the question about what's going on is always in the back of your mind. Because you analyze everything your child an attempt to figure out which therapies are working and which ones aren't. And what helps and what doesn't. And what sets your child off and what doesn't. And what they can cope with today and what they can't. The watching, the waiting, the never ends.

And then one day you realize that life has gone back to "normal." Except it's your old normal, the one you thought you had left behind. And you realize you've been tiptoeing around your child for weeks, not knowing what's going to set off the explosion. And it feels as if everything you've done, worked on, researched, endured has been for nothing. That you're back at square one, with no idea where to go from here.

This knowledge hits you when you're already exhausted from weeks of fighting and aggression, so it hits you like a punch in the stomach. And all you want to do is curl up in bed and cry, because you feel like you just don't have the energy to start all over again. I can tell you from personal experience that there are few things more disheartening than feeling like all the progress you've made over the months or years has suddenly gone out the window.

I'm going back to bed now, where I may or may not cry. (There's a good chance I will.) But once my pity party is over, I'll get back up and start all over again. Because that's what I do. I'm the parent of a child with a mental illness. That's what we do.