I’m back! Where was I? My precious laptop died. The hard drive failed. My Mac was sent off to the Genius Bar for an entire week. O the pain! My husband was very pragmatic about it:
“You’ll be fine. We have three iPads. Just use one of those, or use your phone. You’ve got a Smartphone.”
I feel the need to defend our possession of three iPads. My husband works in the IT field. He was given all those iPads through occupational opportunities. “Show up at this event and get a free iPad!” He once went to a Microsoft roundtable discussion and walked out with a free laptop. I don’t understand how that world operates, but I do appreciate the swag. He was even given the MacBook Pro I now call mine.
Anyway, I am not 25. I cannot write blog posts from an iPad. I’m one of those old people who requires a keyboard. Even a tiny Bluetooth keyboard. Something!
It’s not a bad thing to go silent for a while. I was cut off from the Internet essentially, and I was more present because I didn’t have the distraction of my shiny laptop. So, what have I learned in the brief time that I was offline?
Milly is finally seeing a pediatric psychiatrist. When I step back and read this I shake my head. I have three children seeing psychiatrists. Good grief! Is that really necessary? Remember that neighbor down the street who was gossiping about my family with other neighbors? She yelled at me from her front steps and screamed “Munchausers!” When she emailed me later to justify her behavior, she told me that she knew that all my children were medicated; she didn’t agree with that. I must have “Munchausers” if I’m medicating all my children.
Her obvious ignorance regarding factitious disorders aside as well as the perpetuation of misinformation amongst the women down the block, there is a valid point hidden here. Is it good to medicate children? Grace is medicated. Eadaoin is medicated. Milly is medicated. Doireann is not.
I used to think like my neighbor. I refused to take medication myself. My mother took so many drugs. I didn’t want to be like that. I grew up around myriad pill bottles. My mother had Multiple Sclerosis, and she had a pill for everything that ailed her. In the early 80s, there weren’t a lot of treatment options. She also struggled with a major depressive disorder in addition to a personality disorder. I grew up around mental and physical illnesses. I wanted to walk a different path. I wanted to be my mother’s foil in every way. So, when I got my first migraine at 27 years-old, I didn’t want to take medication for it. Surely there was a better way to manage it.
I went to a homeopath. I went to a naturopath. I saw chiropractors. And, I suffered. Everyone had different opinions as to why I had migraines, and they were all adamant that they were right. I tried to do everything that everyone told me to do. I never improved. Eventually, I began to experience 20 migraines a month, and my OB practically dragged me to a neurologist. I needed medication and testing. I was terrified. I hated neurologists having been forced to see them when I was younger due to a seizure disorder. I wanted to be done. Thus began my journey into the weird world of the brain and better living through chemistry.
If epilepsy runs in your family, as it does in mine, you have almost double the risk for developing migraine with aura. Oh. Well, that sucks. Maybe I should have visited a neurologist sooner for my migraines. I have a seizure disorder. Migraine with aura in women causes white matter lesions which can permanently alter brain structure. Uh…that seems important. So, taking Excedrin for Migraine and sleeping it off isn’t a sound practice? We should not be doing that? Why? Those structural changes can put you at risk for stroke later in life. Add an autoimmune disease like SLE to the mix and the results can be even more serious. A migraine is not a headache. It’s a neurological event that requires the care of a neurologist. Not the dude at Walgreen’s stocking the analgesic aisle.
I’ve made my point, right? I was an idiot to wait so long to see a neurologist, but I was afraid. I was afraid because I’d been forced to see neurologists before, and they were all asshats. That’s right. All of ’em. Neurologists, in general, tend to treat patients like walking brains. They are known to have a terrible bedside manner largely because they are so smart. Neurology is a very hard speciality, and it draws the clinically-minded physician who should probably be in a lab dissecting brains rather than interfacing with humans with pulses. I wasn’t properly diagnosed with a seizure disorder for years because my seizures were idiopathic. A brilliant neurologist finally diagnosed me based upon posturing in my left hand. From that posturing she knew the type of seizures I had and predicted that my EEG would be “clean”. Up until that moment, I felt crazy, and I was weary of being examined and sent on my way with a clean bill of health even though I knew something was wrong.
But we keep trying. We are tenacious. We don’t give up just because we don’t like it or because we are scared or because it’s hard.
This is what it’s like with our kids and even ourselves when we talk about mental health. There are some horrible mental health care providers out there. Let’s just say it. There are! I’ve met some really bad therapists and psychiatrists. There’s a reason One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was written. I’ve met my share of Nurse Ratcheds and sadistic psychiatrists. Do we let them determine our progression in life or our choices? Do we abandon our path and camp out somewhere just because we’re afraid? Do I refuse to get help for my daughters because I’m afraid of what other people will think of me or even them? Do I cower or let my daughters shrink because a few women down the block gossip about us?
One day, medication may not be the right answer for Milly or Eadaoin, and I’m open to that. I am, however, out there in the world banging on doors. What is going to move them up the spectrum of functionality? Three weeks ago, Milly was crying every day, overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. Today, she isn’t. She’s able to try to take risks. She has moved up the spectrum of functionality. Can she self-regulate? Well, she tries. It took her an hour to calm down last night after a disappointment, but she did calm down eventually. She is able to talk about her feelings with more ease rather than hide under her desk in her room. On a very basic level, this is why we use medication in terms of treating mental health issues. We are attempting to augment a deficiency so that we become more functional in hopes that the side effect profile of said medication will not add to our deficiencies. While the drug is in use, we take advantage of therapy in order to learn new skills that will compensate for our natural deficiencies so that when we stop using the drug we will not feel our deficiencies as much as we did before. The drug is a buffer and a life preserver of sorts that allows us to learn to properly swim in whatever sort of sea characterizes our life. If our life is like choppy waters, then we must acquire the skills to swim in that. If our life is like that of a vast ocean, then we must acquire the skills to learn to swim in that. If we live on an island with few resources, then we have to learn to live there.
Why would we deprive our children, ourselves, or anyone else from acquiring functionality or judge someone for attempting to engage in this growth process? Why should we fear? My neighbor judged me harshly because she insisted that schizophrenia was really just caused by a food allergy. I was the stupid one for consulting a doctor. I had “Munchausers”. I should have been seeing a chiropractor who specialized in applied kinesiology. She is entitled to her opinion but not her judgments. None of us are. I don’t walk in your shoes, and you don’t walk in mine. I have no right to hold your decisions against you when I don’t even know how you arrived at the space in your life that you now occupy. I’m not privy to your deepest desires or the movements of your heart.
What I do know is that it’s far easier to judge someone than to love someone or even come alongside someone who is suffering. But, I think that goodness is the answer for what ails us. It will always trump judgment.
I was at a conference last year, and a speaker pondered:
“What if the problem today isn’t drugs or terrorism, unemployment or poverty but rather the lack of goodness in the world?”
It’s an interesting question, and you don’t have to agree with the conclusion. I, however, see more and more that cynicism, criticism, anger, and fear-mongering don’t bring lasting change in my life, the lives of my children, or even the world at large. Goodness? Kindness? Moving away from always trying to be right to attempting to understand? You may not see change right away, but, on a foundational level, it feels like a better way to move through life. It seems like a more appropriate response to life’s weightier circumstances. It seems like a way through when we’d really just like to go around and avoid altogether. Life, however, can’t be avoided, can it? We must all stand and be counted at some point. And, if we have vulnerable people depending on us to care and advocate for them, then our reasons for standing up become that much more significant. Defining ‘goodness’ isn’t easy, is it?
Take my laptop away for a week and this is what happens. Ontology strikes again.