Anxiety had taken over my daughter’s life when she was in fourth grade. Talee had a panic attack in class one day, and was petrified it would happen again. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t make herself walk into the classroom. Fear stopped her.
She missed at least two weeks of school because her panic attacks were out of control. We felt hopeless and reached out for medical help. The child psychiatrist suggested Talee take an antidepressant.
When I was diagnosed with panic disorder and panic attacks, I was put on sertraline (an antidepressant). It helped me a great deal, with minimal side effects. I’d been desperate for relief from anxiety, and was ready and willing to try anything, including medication.
But I felt totally different when the child psychiatrist prescribed the same antidepressant for my ten-year-old.
How would her little body react? For me, the worst problem was that I was extremely tired for the first two weeks. Would she feel the same way? How could she possibly function at school being so tired?
Medicating my child for panic attacks was something I did not take lightly. But the sertraline helped me get my life back. I hoped and prayed it would do the same for Talee.
Here’s the way I looked at it. I take medication to treat my high blood pressure and hypothyroid. I’ll have to take those for the rest of my life. One medication lowers my blood pressure to a safe level, and the other brings up the level of my thyroid. The medicine helps prevent serious issues.
So why would I think differently in regards to medication for anxiety? The sertraline balances my serotonin levels. This allows me to drive, go to the store, and travel. I’m nearly panic free.
I thought of it the same way with Talee. If an antidepressant could help get her through the day without a panic attack, or at least be able to control it, then we needed to explore that option.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t concerned about side effects.
Something I heard that really scared me was that antidepressants can cause suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents. I researched it, and although medical experts say it’s a small number… I worried.
My husband and I talked with the pediatrician and the child psychiatrist. We decided to give it a try.
A few days after Talee started taking the medicine, it felt like a miracle.
She was able to get back into the classroom. She didn’t seem to have any side effects. She started having play dates again, and went to basketball practice. There were setbacks. But for the most part, we saw a huge improvement.
After about a year, Talee told me she kept forgetting to take her medicine. And she wasn’t having any panic attacks. We talked to the doctor, and Talee was eventually weaned off completely.
My husband and I don’t regret the decision to medicate Talee. For us, the antidepressant is what helped our little girl get her childhood back.
And for that we are so grateful.
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