Are We Overmedicating Our Kids?
Moms who made the wrenching decision to put their kids on powerful drugs -- and how they made peace with the consequences
The hidden costs
Beyond the literal expense of doctors and therapists and diagnostic tests and medications, the social costs of a mentally ill child can be unimaginable to someone who has never struggled with one of these conditions. Parents are frequently blamed for their child's bad behavior. Georgeta Coleman, diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 6, was expelled from first grade for acting out. When her mom, Mary Ellen, came to take Georgeta home, a school official told her that if the girl had had "better parenting," things might have turned out differently. (Even worse, Coleman, of Pleasant Valley, New York, then had to switch jobs because her child couldn't go to school and a supervisor wasn't satisfied with the partial work-from-home arrangement Coleman devised.)
Kids also face the stigma of being different. "To see the pain in my child's eyes because she's trying so hard to be good and 'normal' -- it rips my heart out every day," says Claudine Boger.
But for these moms, perhaps the worst feeling of all is isolation -- the sense that family members, their child's teachers, and even their own friends have no idea what they're going through. "In the early days, when I felt like I was struggling the most, being told over and over that I needed to relax only made me feel like more of a failure," says Wagner.
And yet, despite the heartache, the expense, the sleepless nights, and feeling judged, these moms remain hopeful. "He's my baby," says Colleen Webster simply. "I have scars on my arms from his bites, and they will always be reminders of bad times with my son. But I also hope they will be reminders of how far we've come. I hope someday they'll be my badge of victory."