Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What I Learned Today

I have a very welcome feeling today, one I haven't had for too many months.  We're going to be OK.  Lily is going to be OK.

We're not out of the woods yet.  But, we're seeing our path a bit more clearly.  After a good visit with a developmental pediatrician, I came away feeling a little more empowered.  This lovely young and knowledgeable woman had us complete the first child behavioral check list I've seen.  In all these months, no one else has requested this.  While she had a conversation with us, her capable assistant scored the list and produced a report.  This didn't tell me anything new, but it felt like something, as opposed to a very few vague questions and ponderous silences we usually get from the psychiatrist.

The pediatrician suggested, in a subtle way, that we consider seeking out new mental health professionals to treat Lily.  This is an idea I've been struggling with for some time now, but didn't trust myself to go ahead with because I don't fully understand all the pieces of the medical side of what we're dealing with.  So - let me just say, the first thing I learned (or really, relearned) is:  Trust your maternal instinct.  I'll say it again because it feels so good:  Trust your maternal instinct!!  Whew, feeling better now thanks.

So - why does changing mental health practitioners make sense?  Because I haven't been able to get my questions answered, or even really adequately addressed.  Lily's psychiatrist looks and listens, but says little, even when asked a direct question.  Lily is making progress, but the major changes have been made by psychiatrists on staff at the hospital. 

Our LCSW, Lily's therapist, is a lovely person, but she's been resistant to my requests for implementation of cognitive behavioral therapy for Lily.  She is a support person, but even Lily doesn't feel like her therapist is helping her much, she just likes going to play board games with her.

The second thing I learned today is that a child's therapist, doctor, or psychiatrist has an obligation to treat the whole family.  What I mean is, a child cannot be treated without consideration of her environment.  Professionals must be amenable to answering questions from the parents.  A child's illness affects the entire family, she is not isolated.  This isn't a new idea for me, but it really crystallized when I dealt with a doctor who respected Lily but also was adept at communicating with me.

Finally, my third lesson was a reminder that offbeat or even slightly inappropriate humor can be healing.  With a long car ride, Lily and I had a wonderful opportunity to talk, and to laugh.  We had a couple of silly conversations, starting with her gentle adolescent critique of my singing.  The song was Animal by Neon Trees, one of Lily's favorites.   It went something like this:

me:  "Oh oh, I want to know, oh oh what are we waiting for . . . "
Lily:  "Mom - it's 'Oh oh I want some more . . . ' there are lyric websites you know!"

Result - we laughed and laughed.  It can be great to be the mom and be wrong when your daughter gets to be normal and just a little condescending.  I loved it, this is the normal we've been missing for such a long time now.

Second scenario:  Lily has a compulsion, just a bit of OCD, but she can feel really angry and agitated when triggered.  Her compulsion is to tap her head nine times with a pen when she hears words with "ck".  She gets angry when someone says a word with "ck".  Do you have any idea how many words we say every day with "ck" in them?  Duck, quack, track, rack, jack, lack, package, packet, pocket . . . you get the idea. 

I finally suggested a compensation that she might use with or without the head tapping.  I thought she might feel better if she thinks a silly thought when this happens, sort of like picturing the audience nude if you're nervous about public speaking, right?  But she's thirteen, so it has to be interesting, and maybe just outrageous enough, for her to enjoy using it.  So I told her, "why don't you just think in your head, now don't say this out loud, sh*t booger head!"  Lily cracked up.  Even if she never uses it, the real laughter was priceless.


  1. *Gigantic SMILES!*
    Hurrayyyyy, the long dirt road to recovery! I know EXACTLY what you mean when you said, "It can be great to be the mom and be wrong when your daughter gets to be normal and just a little condescending. I loved it, this is the normal we've been missing for such a long time now."
    I can see others thinking, "How can condescending be good?" but there is pure joy and pride and elation in those moments, as your little one is once again connecting and relating on a more developmentally appropriate and socially aligned way. We had a day this week that was like a beautiful blue whole that let the sun's rays shine in through the thick grey clouds of the storm raging over or within her mind lately. My fear today is, was it the calm before the storm or the eye of the storm?

  2. Thanks Mel - hope your calm lasts a while!

  3. Oh my that is funny. I love that you even let her have a bad word! Good job mama.

  4. Thanks Andrea - sometimes the shock value is enough to reset the mood in a positive way. I'm always looking for a new trick. (oops, "ck" words again!!!)