I struggled with this one for a while, not just for Nigel but also for myself.
In late 1997, after crying one afternoon because I could not stop rearranging the chairs around the kitchen table, I realized that the anxiety wasn’t going away on its own. I had several other symptoms as well: peeling skin off the bottoms of my feet until they bled, systematically pulling out my hair, and chronic insomnia. I finally went to a doctor and was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. The ‘when it rains it pours’ adage is unmercifully true: my diagnosis came one month before Nigel’s autism diagnosis and my husband’s announcement that he wanted to be separated.
For six months prior to obtaining medication for myself, I had struggled with believing that it was necessary, that it wasn’t a sign of weakness. The doctor had to remind me that if something was wrong with any other part of my body, I wouldn’t hesitate to obtain the medication I needed. If I had a heart disease, I might need antiplatelet drugs. If I were diabetic, I would need insulin. I agreed to a low dosage of Zoloft, and I experienced relief from my symptoms within days of taking it. I took it for a year and a half.
Within the past year, I had noticed that Nigel exhibited signs of anxiety, possibly OCD. He pulled out his hair so much he would create bald spots. He would rub his lips so hard that he had rough, bleeding patches around his mouth. He had chronic insomnia. I had thought that his anxiety was environmental, due to the constant stress of the middle school. When I pulled him out of the school, his lips/mouth area improved, but he still had insomnia. And the worst thing was that not only was he still pulling out his hair, he had started eating it. I knew then that, even though he was only thirteen, he needed medication. Also, I have read that autistic teens are highly susceptible to depression, and with that running in our family as well, I figured getting him on Zoloft now might cut the depression off at the pass. There are some in my family who think I jumped the proverbial gun, that he’s too young to be on medication, that I should wait and see. But pulling out your hair and eyelashes and eating them indicates a definite need for medication, and I do not regret my decision.
I am happy to report that Nigel is sleeping much better now and has a full head of hair. Life goes on. And I am far too busy to be rearranging the chairs around the kitchen table, thank God.