Saturday, August 16, 2008
The Other Epidemic
Sweet M is very, very round, and I haven't known what to do.
We are told that there is an epidemic of autism. The other epidemic that we hear a a lot about is rising childhood obesity. If one believes that fatness is a disease, and not just another difference, then Sweet M is among the obese.
Of course there are a lot of smart people out there who think fat is just fat, not a disease. But most of them are not tween-age girls.
As for me, I'm not sure what I think, but I know it's hard to be fat.
I've been fat. I've been thin. I've been fat again, and thin again, and fat again.
What has never stopped amazing me is the unadulterated prejudice against fat people that abounds. When I'm fat people make all kinds of assumptions (need I say "none positive"?) about me: about my intelligence, my fitness, my energy level, my work habits, my education level, my sexuality, and my socioeconomic status. It's simply amazing.
So I wish Sweet M weren't fat.
It is hard to be fat. And it's hard to be autie. And it's hard to be a fat autie tween. Awfully hard.
Sweet M didn't used to be fat. She used to be a beanpole like her slender father.
One of my undergraduate students last semester told me that he'd worked the previous summer at a weight reduction camp for kids. Many of the kids who were struggling with their weight, he told me, were taking psychotropic meds: antidepressants or atypical neuroleptics. Paxil, Prozax, Risperdal, Abilify, Effexor, etc.
That makes sense to me. Ever since Sweet M started taking Paxil five years ago, she's been piling on the pounds. I think of MOM-NOS's descriptions of Bud ravenously hungry after starting a particular medication, and I think, wow, these medications do change the way they perceive and metabolize food.
Of course Sweet M's carb-centric diet and aversion to running around haven't helped. She prefers television, the computer, videogames, and drawing to almost any other activities. Except -- get this -- horseback riding. Horseback riding! Not exactly the ideal sport selection for a girl living in lower Manhattan. Wish she'd picked something a little more convenient and less extravagant, like shooting hoops or riding a bike. But she picked.
So in July, we started hippotherapy, horseback riding for kids with developmental differences. It's awesome. Sweet M is loving it, and she's learning to sit tall, to post and trot, with 1,800 pounds of horse underneath her.
Sweet M meets Thunder.
And now we're going all out: we're taking her off of Paxil. To tell you the truth, I'm scared. It's a medication that has saved our lives. It almost completely eliminated Sweet M's obsessive-compulsive symptoms within two weeks of starting. But that was nearly six years ago, and now we're trying for something new.
Slowly, surely, carefully, we're taking her off; making tiny incremental drops while substituting another medication that her doctor says is weight neutral in children. Apparently coming off of Paxil can cause excruciating withdrawal symptoms, so we're taking it very, very slowly, and introducing a different SSRI.
So far, so good. We're galloping along in week two of the switch.
If Sweet M can manage 1,800 pounds of equine Thunder, I hope I can manage one sweet autie tween switching meds.