Linea and I have been writing and speaking about treatment of mental health conditions during the month of April. Treatment includes many things - medications, counseling, life skills and life style, and family counseling and support. The importance of family support is critical. Please note that the definition of family may vastly differ from person to person and if there is not a biological family that can offer support I believe it is important that this is found somewhere else, perhaps through support groups, friends or peers. There is ample research out there that family support is a critical factor in the positive outcomes of people with mental illnesses. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I received during the time that Linea was the sickest was from a colleague and mental health professor at my university. He asked if we were in "family counseling" and if not, he suggested we should be. He said, "This time and what you do with it provides an opportunity for a stronger, more honest and loving family than you have ever had previously." He was right. What we learned from all of this is to do more of what we have always done. Honesty, laughter and love.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
What happened to the last month plus a week? I have been teaching, meeting, writing (not blogs, obviously) and traveling. With no room for the unexpected, of course the unexpected threw me a curve ball and I am somewhat behind. The good news is that an article was accepted in The Clearing House Journal, entitled "Don't Turn Away: Empowering Teachers to Support Students' Mental Health", written by me, daughter Linea and two colleagues from Seattle University. Excellent! It was great to write something with a "voice" as well as research and suggestions! I will post notice when it is published!
Treatment.....this is the topic of the month. Treatment for mental illness but perhaps this relates to other medical treatments as well. Prior to treatment one needs a diagnosis. Often a scary, mind-boggling, unbelievable diagnosis precedes treatment. Whereas diagnoses is often "wait and see", treatment can be "trial and error". When my daughter Linea was in the initial stages of the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, depression was the major symptom. Many, MANY, trials of anti-depressants followed. These all seemed to have side effects that would cause most people to just stop taking the drugs. Eventually one medication put her into a manic state. But she struggled on, trusting her doctor, talking to us and her therapist and psychiatrist. Except when she didn't. Sometimes she said to-hell-with-this, why not self-medicate? There were times I didn't know what to do or where to turn but as my mom would say, "Hang on for a minute, an hour and then a day." So we all did.
Eventually there was a close-to-correct concoction of meds in place and enough stability followed that she was able to add all the other important aspects of treatment. Like: Taking care of yourself. Caring for yourself. Eating, sleeping, exercising, counseling, finding joy, peace and laughter. Prior to stability this was nearly impossible. My job as a parent was to stay steady. As frightened as I was throughout the process of finding treatment to ensure stability I needed to stay calm and pick up as many pieces as I could so that she could put her energy towards getting well. It was very difficult at times. Extremely difficult many times. I spent hours at psychiatrist appointments, driving her to therapist appointments, calling, cajoling and arguing with the medical insurance company, filling out paperwork, reading and researching medications (not always a good idea), talking to people and listening, really listening, to her.
As the parent of a young adult one must walk the fine, thin line of doing too much and not doing enough. I can only describe it as helping her to learn to walk a tight rope. At first I needed to hold her up until I was so exhausted I honestly didn't know if I could do it anymore. Eventually she found her balance and took a few steps. I often couldn't trust that she could really do this on her own so sometimes I held on so tightly that she wondered if she would ever be able to traverse on her own. She pushed me away, and althought sometimes she faltered she began to become steady. The best thing we did was talk and talk with the deepest honesty possible. Eventually I learned to trust her. She is stable, and only occasionally wobbly. She is now in charge. She can ask for a small touch to steady her when she needs it and she is soon on her way again. I am incredibly proud that she has found her balance. I know that it is her own hard work and her incredible intelligence and deep commitment to life that keeps her on this path. I also know that it is not only me but her dad and sister and brother-in-law and boyfriend and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends who surrounded her with a safety net of love and support that helped her find her stability.
Check our video where we discuss treatment. http://www.youtube.com/user/LineaCinda#p/a/u/0/q83ZxRvFw9s
The Tightrope Walker, a painting by Jean-Louis Forain.