I know I don’t have to mention to fellow parents, yet again, how daunting and exhausting it is for us to continually have to do the research, find the right doctors and therapists to work with our family, chase services, fight for services being taken away, etc., etc., etc. It is both isolating and frustrating. Dealing with Richie’s aggressive and self-injurious behavior as it increases in intensity, frequency and duration has caused me to experience bouts of depression and crying spells, not to mention how all of this has impacted the dynamics of our day-to-day lives as a family. It is a daily struggle to maintain the patience needed for modifying and improving my son Richie’s challenging behavior.
It’s not easy to be patient and strong while you’re crying in-between blows from your two-hundred-plus pound 16 year-old son who towers over you. As I write this now, the song “In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes plays in my head. It resonates with me during these cheerless times. Parents of children with autism experience days with extreme uncertainty of what to expect from our children. These days I never know how to feel or how my day or night is going to go until I see how well Richie is feeling. This reads pretty bleak, I know. Still, in my sadness, I have to mention that despite my present feelings of frustration and low spirits, it wasn't always like this.
There were times when we got to see Richie go about his day happily, learning new things or surprising us with things he already knows for long stretches of great months, weeks, days or just moments. And there are times when our family has to survive those long stretches of months, weeks, days and moments that truly tests the strength of our patience, physical abilities, and love.
There’s More to Richie than Autism and Challenging Behavior
Richie is intelligent, funny, and loving. All we need is to give him the opportunity to live as any other teenager would. I know we are not alone. I know there are other warrior parents and self-advocates going through the same ordeal. I’m reminded of what a dear friend told me once. Jen said, "You’re only as happy as your happiest child.” And Richie has happy moments. He deserves more of them. He is entitled to live a life of happiness and peace. I truly believe Richie is living every moment in a state of “fight or flight” anxiety (in his case it’s “fight”).
We need something that will help ease the anxiety, pain, anguish, and whatever else is causing Richie to become this person we all know he doesn’t want to be.
We Turned to Medical Cannabis
Trying to find the right combination of medication and dosage can sometimes take months and several different trials. Please note that I am not anti-medication. I respect the fact that some medicines can relieve, heal, and improve quality of life for many people. However, I would rather avoid putting Richie through all those changes and possible symptoms that I know he won’t be able to express to us effectively (Richie is non-speaking). It would be nearly impossible for us to distinguish between behaviors resulting from symptoms of autism and symptoms of medications.
It's because of these reasons I wanted to try more holistic approaches first. We’ve used melatonin for sleep, but this proved to be inconsistent as we still experienced many nights filled with pacing, behavior episodes, and Richie staying up all night. We use GABA, a neurotransmitter used for calming and relaxing. But it isn't enough to help ease the intense levels of anxiety and panic attacks Richie experiences. We needed something stronger, more effective, and safe. After much research and having had the opportunity to interview amazing people like Jen Mulry (fellow parent of a child with autism) and Dr. David Berger (a board certified pediatrician with an impeccable reputation in Holistic Pediatric and Primary care) for the blog I wrote, “Tampa Bay Families Turn to Medical Marijuana for Effective and Life Changing Results,” I knew I had to consider medicinal cannabis as an option for helping Richie.
Read our post that sparked our interest in Medical Cannabis: "Tampa Bay Families Turn to Medical Marijuana for Effective and Life Changing Results."
Although we received services as part of our collaboration with Wholistic Releaf for raising awareness on treating autism with medical cannabis, all opinions expressed are my own.