Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seeking Help for the First Time

We were on summer vacation with my husband’s family, all of us, in one beach house right at the shoreline. It was one of the best vacations and one of the worst. During this trip, our son who was 7 at the time, went into a rage in front of our relatives. Because we wanted to protect our son’s privacy, this was their first exposure to how much our son was struggling, for me, it was clarification that our son needed professional help.

After my son’s rage where he was screaming that he wanted to kill everyone, I clearly remember my son staring out the window at the ocean waves crashing on the shore and quietly saying, “I’m God’s mistake, I wish I was dead, I should never have been born.”

Even though this was that last thing I wanted to have happen at our family reunion, I was relieved that this struggle was no longer a secret to our relatives. I also got confirmation that what we were seeing in our son was not “normal behavior” and I was encouraged to seek professional help.

But when we got home and made the appointment with a specialist in our HMO, I honestly was scared. I had no idea what pandora’s box we were opening. I lied awake at night with images of our son being taken away because he threatened harm to others during his rage. I was worried that I would be accused of being a bad parent or even worse, we had a bad kid, which I knew was not true.

I’m motivated in writing this post to share that none of those things happened. I hope to encourage you to take this step if you haven’t already. Though our experience has been far from perfect, I’m so glad we took this step and entered into the world of mental health.

If you’re still hesitant, here’s a peek of what happened when we made an appointment with a specialist in our HMO.

First, we met with a psychiatrist, I believe his job was to hear our case and determine if we should meet with doctors in his department. We had to read a policy statement and sign our names to a document that talked about patient rights in mental health. I will admit that I was still scared about how they would react if they knew our son said “I want to kill you!” in a rage, especially after we were told that they have to notify authorities if he has threatened harm to anyone, so we didn’t share that detail just yet, instead we talked about all his symptoms and the parenting techniques we’ve tried.

From there, we were referred to the pediatric mental health department for a group session for parents with children that have ADHD, mood disorders, conduct disorders and such.

I will admit that this appointment was odd. We met in a large room with a lot of parents, all looking like deer in the headlights with no one saying a word. It was like we all had this dirty little secret and didn’t want to share it with anyone, yet there was this part of me that was thinking... so what’s wrong with their kid, could it be similar to mine?

After a group lesson on how our HMO works with children, we were all divided up to individual doctors that did a second interview of our child’s case. This meeting was a lot like the first, just reading off lists of symptoms and such. After that, we were approved to seek therapy and see the psychiatrist, we walked away with a future appointment and doctors assigned to our son.

Then came the first appointment with our new therapist. It was a basic overview of everything we had to share. At that time I did reveal all the details, even the ones that included his threats to kill us. I was relieved to discover that to our therapist, this was no big deal. It was a very common thing for kids say during a rage and wasn’t considered an actual threat that needed to be reported. In fact, he shared that he had heard much worse.

I walked away from this first appointment feeling empowered. It was an incredible feeling to hear someone say that this is not your fault, this is not your child’s fault, your child has a chemical imbalance and we’re going to help you.

I cried during this meeting, it felt like I didn’t have to do this alone anymore, I had a team of doctors that had seen these same symptoms in many other kids and I was relieved to know that many got better over the years.

If you’re in this place yourself, wondering if you should take the step to seek professional help for your child, please do it today. You can’t do this alone, you need all the support you can get. Even though our experience with our doctors has been a struggle, I’ve never regretted making that first call and I feel blessed that we have access to this care.

As for my son, I asked him how he felt about this first appointment, he said, “He was glad we did it, it felt good to finally see a doctor.”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. It is so much better then going it alone.