The wife and I had a consultation session yesterday with a nurse practitioner. She specializes in pediatric mental health. This is the first step toward medicating our daughter.

Did you hear that? It was the shrieks of all the outraged parents who believe no child ever needs to be ‘drugged’.

Of course, those parents do not have, and will never have, my child.

What do parents want? Do we want a controllable child? Do we want to avoid all the stress and heartache of a child that acts out? Of course we do, on some level. But that is not the point. I know that for some of you, you believe that’s why kids get put on medication. It’s an easy judgment to make against the parents. However the true rationale lies much deeper than that, and is actually much simpler:

We want our daughter to be happy.

Right now we have a child that cries herself to sleep at night. Who hates going to school because she has no friends. Who tries to tell us how sad and empty she feels, but can’t because she doesn’t have the vocabulary to express what’s going on inside her.

Perhaps more importantly, we have a child that is so thoroughly sabotaging herself that nearly everyone in her life now expects her to be a problem. And how long can you expect a child to develop self-confidence when they are being lectured, chided, yelled at, and otherwise told they fail every single day? Not very long. I sometimes wonder if it is already too late. If we have run out of enough time to repair the damage that’s been done.

The nurse practitioner met with the wife and me without our daughter. She began by asking us questions about the behaviors that concerned us - when they started, if they still continue. This lead to more discussion. Eventually, she began asking us fairly specific questions about behaviors that we hadn’t even mentioned yet. It was as if she already knew our daughter. The more information she got, the more confident she seemed to become as the session went on.

Although she will meet with our daughter next week, and evaluate her separately, she already feels fairly confident that the girl suffers from anxiety, with some depression tossed in for good measure. This goes beyond my hope that this was simply an impulse control issue, but it makes perfect sense.

It makes sense in particular when she asked us about our family histories. The wife and I both take anti-depressants. I have siblings that take them, so does my wife. They have made a tremendous difference in our lives. Why should it surprise us that our child would need them too? This is not a question of being a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person. It is a question of brain chemistry, of whether you have an appropriate amount of the right neurotransmitters.

Does this mean I’m thrilled about putting my daughter on meds? Hell, no. Anti-depressants, in particular SSRIs, are scary things. I have enough personal experience, and have heard enough anecdotal evidence, to know that selection of the right drug, and the right dosage, can be critical. I also know that some of the side effects can be wretched.

But are they worse than going through childhood without friends? Being sunk into depression every day so deep that the only attention you get is negative attention? We don’t think so.

This decision has been a long time coming, and it has taken a great deal of thought. Unless we believed that medication was the best chance for our girl to reach the potential that she is capable of, unless we believed that medication was the best way to make her happy, to help her sleep through the night without being afraid, to help her keep from overeating and obsessing about food, we wouldn’t do it. If we knew that it would solve all her problems, it wouldn’t require a second thought.

But even the chance that it could help her makes it worth trying.