Better Living Through Chemistry

Monday, May 21, 2012

We're a few days into The Great Melatonin Experiment, and we're definitely starting to see progress that goes beyond bedtime improvements.

To recap...

- bedtime had gone from an hour or so (assisted by visual checklist) of frustrating but more or less manageable predictability to 3-4 hours of crazy making, dysregulated, screaming, sobbing, nonverbal insanity

- it's been getting worse for several months, with him not falling asleep until roughly midnight (that's with starting the ritual around 8:30 and attempting to coach him through visual checklist)  (And no, we can't start earlier, husband doesn't get home from work until at least 7. This already has him brushing his teeth for bed moments after eating his last bite of dinner.)

- this disaster included him losing all of his potty training and starting from scratch with him basically in diapers again

- about three weeks ago he started waking up dysregulated and nonverbal on a daily basis. A recent 90 minute screaming breakdown upon waking up prompted my husband to have to rush home from work and an emergency call to our family therapist.

One of the first things she said was that he's not getting enough sleep (Uummm, yeah. Tell me something I didn't know.)  But rather than the predictable lectures about bedtime routines and visual schedules, she suggested we try melatonin.  I was more than ready to hear some new advice, and I'd heard that melatonin it was a common supplement in the spectrum community.

We followed her suggestion and called the pediatrician for dosage advice first thing the next morning. Because?  We were close to cracking. If we could get him on it THAT DAY, we were gonna.

It took another day to hear back from his doc, and then we were On. It.

Gave him the smallest dose per his neuro (1 mg).  Gave each other a hopeful look and went our separate ways - each with a child in hand - to begin what we assumed would be another long, hideous night of screaming misery.  Sometimes it's Bear screaming, and sometimes it's the baby screaming because he's overtired on account of his big brother won't be quiet for more than 3.2 nanoseconds and OMFG it's 11:13 PM we've been at this for hours please for the love of everything go the fuck to sleep.


Gave Bear his first dose of melatonin around 8:30 pm.  Around 9:45 my husband wandered into our room (where I was still attempting to get Baby T to sleep) with a goofy look on his face.

All I could muster was disbelief that Bear was actually asleep. And that it only took an hour.  And? AND?!?  There was no screaming.

That first night he slept nearly 12 hours, with only a brief wakening for his regular pre-dawn trip from his bed to ours.

Until now he'd been sleeping maybe 8 or 9 hours.  Some nights, 6 or 7. Or even 5.

His therapist also recommended a full meds eval because she's concerned about his overall behavior - particularly the increase in obsessive/compulsive behaviors.  But I was squeamish about trying melatonin... really really really not ready to discuss heavy duty medications with side effects significant enough it's made me unwilling to take them for my own OCD and anxiety.

We told her we'd put that idea on the back burner, hoping that if the started sleeping better the dysregulated behaviors would diminish.

Within 3 days (hell... within one day), things looked like they'll be moving in that direction.  We  even made an impromptu trip to the park, and he was able to cope with an abrupt "the baby's crying, gotta go right now" transition so well I was still in shock an hour later. 

Because a week ago? We wouldn't have even attempted the park. Or if we had, leaving would have taken 30 transition, and we'd have still had to carry  him out screaming, and he'd have been nonverbal for a couple of hours.

And this morning? He woke up with a smile and said "Good morning, Mommy."  No drama need apply.

It's been so deeply awful for so long I haven't been able to acknowledge the depths of the awfulness for fear I'd lose my resolve. It's been a non-stop pressure cooker of overwhelming stress as I've watched my poor Bear spiral out of control.  It feels like I've been clinging to the outside of a runaway train as it heads toward a cliff, and nothing I've tried has helped. Until now.

Now that it's been almost a week and it's getting better every day, my husband and I are starting to let our guard down.  Starting to think that this might actually be getting better.  That our family might get to come out of all-crisis-all-the-time mode and start to heal. 

And all thanks to a little blue bottle of liquid that cost less than 7 bucks.