There is hope. I like saying that. I may have found a school for Eadaoin to attend next year. It’s just one district over, and it’s small. Plus, one of Eadaoin’s friends attends there. It’s a performing arts high school sponsored by one of our local private colleges, and, according to one of their guidance counselors, almost every kid who attends has an IEP or needs one. I told Eadaoin about it, and outwardly she appeared somewhat excited. She texted her friend–the one I thought might attend there–to ask her if she attended. Her friend texted back immediately proclaiming, “You should totally go here!” A ringing endorsement!
Unbeknownst to me, Eadaoin told her group of friends known to all as The Nerd Herd that she would not be returning to the high school. Apparently, they’ve been badgering her since she left last fall. Yesterday, she asked me if I would take her to Caribou, our chosen ‘Let’s talk about life’ venue. I braved the sub-zero temperature, dragged Grace along since she was shuffling around the house with a flat affect and generally driving everyone mad, and bought everyone drinks involving huge amounts of whipped cream because whipped cream makes everything better.
While eating the whipped cream off the top of her Berry White Mocha, Eadaoin informed me that Alex, a member of the Nerd Herd, was less than supportive of her not returning to the high school. He texted something insensitive along the lines of, “You sure are raising a lot of eyebrows around here, and people feel shunned by you.” Eadaoin looked out the window and shook her head. She quietly said, “I just don’t understand. I haven’t shunned anyone. I just want to feel better and have good mental health. Why won’t my friends be happy for me? Why won’t they support me?”
This is a great question, and it’s not an adolescent question either. This is a question that adults ask of the people in their lives, too. People who are trying to make changes for the better in their lives are often not supported, and I sometimes wonder if this doesn’t contribute to relapse. In the video that I posted yesterday, Dr. Amador speaks of the importance of listening. He talked about missing the negative symptoms of schizophrenia and misinterpreting the lack of drive to engage in the therapeutic process as laziness. He admitted that he was guilty of that as a caregiver to his brother, a man with schizophrenia. When he was younger, he saw his brother transform from an ambitious man full of life into a hermit lacking the will to do anything. He and his family thought that his brother had just become indolent, and they accused his brother of possessing this character flaw.
I have done this with Eadaoin. Eadaoin doesn’t have schizophrenia, but depression can suck the life out of a person. When I step back and look at what she’s endured this year I feel something visceral. She had high hopes for high school. Middle school was nightmarish for her, but middle school is rather nightmarish for most people. It’s the shark tank of human development. Everyone, myself included, kept telling her how much better high school would be, and she couldn’t even make it through the orientation without vomiting. I had to pick her up early. Now, she’s being homeschooled. She has an in-home therapist coming to work with her twice a week. She’s on benzos in addition to Lamictal and Zoloft. She’s extraordinarily disappointed in herself and feeling hopeless. Can anyone blame her?
But, I found a high school that might work out for her. I found a DBT therapy group for girls her age. She could learn skills as well as meet other girls who have had similar experiences or who, at least, process emotional intensity like she does. She tells her friends that things might get better for her, and they do what? They act like self-centered teenagers. Not unexpected, I guess, but I hoped for more. She hoped for more. We all hope that our chosen group of friends will come through for us. It can be devastating when they don’t.
Is there a solution? I have no idea. People will fail us. There are many people out there who are not equipped to deal with the weightier issues of life. They simply lack depth of character. They think that they’ve got what it takes, but when the pressure is high they fall apart. Or, when no one is looking, they act like a total ass. They don’t realize that a true test of character is really how you behave when you think no one of import is observing you.
For example, yesterday at Caribou as Eadaoin was sharing her feelings with me, there were two twentysomethings sitting behind us. I could see them. Eadaoin could not. One girl was talking with a high, animated affect, but it wasn’t friendly looking. There was contempt there as if she were talking about someone or something that she didn’t like. She then looked directly at me. I looked at her. She sneered at me. She then leaned in closely to her friend and whispered something while looking at me. Her friend turned around and looked at me, and the two of them began snickering while the girl continued to sneer at me. The benefit of being 41 is that I no longer care what anyone thinks about me. I also have no problem staring at people. I just stared at this girl continuously while she laughed, gossiped, and behaved badly. I watched her as she rolled her eyes. I observed her as she tossed her hair. I had no expression. I just never looked away. She eventually became uncomfortable under the weight of my observation that she stopped discussing anything with her companion and began doing homework. I overheard her say that she wanted to work with children and adolescents in a mental health setting, and she proceeded to name the two hospitals that Grace has stayed at. I felt shocked hearing that. Her character, or what she displays in public, clearly doesn’t match her calling. She appears to be mean and catty, but she wants to have access to vulnerable youth? Would she have behaved like that had she known that I know the one person who could determine whether or not she even got a foot in the door at one of those facilities? Actually, I know someone with great influence at both places! Our character must be congruent with our outwardly displayed persona. If we have a shallow or poorly developed character, then it’s harder to be consistent. The calling on our lives can be easily destroyed by a poorly developed character. I wouldn’t want this girl having access to Grace or Eadaoin. It appears that she doesn’t have any authentic inner resources to call upon. She has to rely on tearing others down to build herself up.
Suffering has a way of developing us. I think this is why Eadaoin is so disappointed with her friends’ responses. She’s in the middle of some major personal growth at only 15 years-old, and her friends are creating drama, gossiping about who is kissing whom, who is dating whom, who has had sex with whom, and what girl has the fattest ass. As much as Eadaoin likes her drama, she isn’t like that. She wants to volunteer at the elementary school or a retirement community. She want to be a teacher at a school like Grace’s where she can work with special needs children and adolescents. Or, you know, be a wedding planner because every day is a fairy tale. At least in her mind. I don’t know if she’s ever heard of Bridezilla before.
I think that suffering serves a tremendous purpose even in the lives of our kids. If there are supports in place, then these young people are capable of growing big hearts, shedding entitlement, and learning true empathy which leads to authentic compassion. It’s just hard to watch the process. I want to fix it. I want to make all the hurt go away, but I also want Eadaoin to learn that she’s got what it takes even if her friends don’t.