sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Posts tagged ‘anxiety’

Dealing and Coping with Mental Illness

One of my biggest challenges in helping my children with their mental health issues, has been doing so while dealing with my own mental health issues.  I have diagnosed myself with Bipolar 2 because the mental health professionals have failed me in that area. They diagnosed me with Major Depression despite my repeated information on my bipolar symptoms. One practioner wanted me to see if my insurance would cover generic testing, in part to see if Bipolar disorder was likely. I don’t need to take a test for that. My brother is diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and has been for a long time. My brother and I share much other genetic similarities. 

I have found in helping my children, that I have been more qualified than the so-called professionals with diagnosing myself and my children. Especially my youngest child who I know has OCD and social anxiety despite failed attempts with professionals to get these diagnoses. I am a health care professional after all and hey, who knows my children better than me? No one. I homeschool/ unschool them based on my knowledge of who they are so I guess we unschool mental health too. 

That being said, we do use professionals for assistance. We have a OCD specialist therapist who has been vital in helping both my daughter and my son.  But we have been unable as of this writing to find a well qualified Psychiatrist who specializes in OCD.  We had one that was competent and who we liked (we liked her even more after we went to other Psychiatrists) but she was self pay only and we already have enough debt from medical expenses. 

Back to my intent of this post….

Helping my children when I myself am suffering my own mental illness. 

When I look back over the years, there are large periods of time that feel like a fog and in those times, just getting through each day was a big challenge for me.  One area that has been a big issues is getting my children help or following through with referrals and other things when they are doing better. 

When your child suffers with mental illness, it is exhausting, emotionally and often physically. When, they are doing better, there is a feeling of relief and wanting life to “just be normal for a while” or more normal.  As an example of this, last spring, my youngest had a severe flare up of OCD, anxiety and behavioral issues.  We went to a hospital ER to get immediate psychiatric help but because he was less than 7, we could only seek a referral to a developmental and behavioral pediatrician or go to the local mental health behavioral unit which would have been at least a 3-5 hour wait without knowing if they could even help us. We opted for the getting referred to the pediatrician specialist which involved going back to our primary for the referral and then I called to follow up but did not receive any information from them for 6 months.  I repeat, it took the Develpomental and behavioral Pediatrician practice, 6 months to send us information in the mail to complete to be seen.  Well, 6 months later, he was doing so much better. We had started OT services as well as going to the therapist we already had for our daughter. I intended to fil out the paperwork.  I must add that about 4 months prior to this visit to the ER, we had taken him to a psychologist for evaluation, but she was unable to complete her evaluation due to his inability to answer all her questions and complete her tests. It took her a couple months to send her results to us which said nothing really that I did not already know. 

Back to the referral to the pediatrician specialist.  I truly intended to fill out this lengthy paperwork to get my son seen.  I even contacted a friend who had taught him in a class situation to help with filling out some of the information. Since we homeschool, we don’t have a teacher to answer things.  He also acts differently with me than with other people, so I thought her input would be helpful. She is also the person who first pointed out the idea that he has “social anxiety”.  Yet, I have yet to begin to complete this paperwork. Now, I want to get my daughter referred to this practice in my hopes that they will have experience with OCD, particularly child-onset OCD. Because, she needs a prescribing doctor to follow her on her medication. Our previous Psychiatrist, who we did not like at all, does not take our current insurance. 

So why did I not fill out the paperwork for my son when they finally send it to me, 6 months after I requested the referral?

The only answer I really have is: my own depression and anxiety. 

My own depression made doing daily activities difficulty and anything extra was really a stretch for me to complete. I just did not have the time nor the energy to do it. I wanted to do it. It bothered me that I did not complete it. I also think that I did not have much faith anymore that these so called “professionals” could help my son.  Having the experience of taking my time to go to the psychologist assessment and gaining nothing from the experience other than frustration with the incompetence of the psychologist with knowing how to handle a kid with severe anxiety and getting help for us, I had little motivation to pursue this next avenue of help.  

So was it my depression and Axiety that prevented me from getting the help for my son?  

Or was it because I no longer believed that the professionals could help my son?

Most likely a little of both. 

I took some steps today to get my children the help they need.  Despite the utterly inadequate NC government health care system, I soldiered on with 2 different phone calls and even talking to the person who is my “case manager” who I find particularly incompetent and unprofessional.    I know know that I need to do research to find a psychiatrist that takes our current insurance, NC assisted: NC Healthchoscie for Children (when your income is too high for Medicaid). They had Medicaid until the beginning of this year. My husband is self employed and my prn work status does not qualify me for health insurance through my employers. I work 2 jobs. 

I also plan to find that paperwork and fill it out for my son too. Hopefully, I can find it, buried in the piles of paper at my desk. And I do plan to ask my friend to help me fill out the information. She now has seen my son at least weekly in class and might have some valuable insights and opinions to share. 

So this is my affirmation to myself to make these items a priority. 

If you also deal with mental health issues and have other family members with mental health issues, I would love to hear your challenges, thoughts and insights.   Let us help each other. 

Words can’t possibly describe….

I am grateful for our dog, Olive.

Olive came to live in our home one year ago.  She was our neighbor’s dog and I remember when I first met her, she was a small, adorable puppy.   A few years later, Olive became my daughter’s best friend.  Abby would go to visit Olive and we would take her for walks together and sometimes Abby would just bring Olive to our yard to play.

And then Olive became our magic angel who helped my daughter out of her fear and rage that went along with the severe anxiety that began to overtake my daughter’s  life when she was 8 years old.  We would sometimes bring Olive into Abby’s bedroom when she awoke in a rage.  Like magic, seeing Olive could help her calm down and begin to move out of  fear and be able to engage in life, to eat a meal or stop her aggressive behavior.

And so when our neighbors told us they were moving in a few weeks and the house they were renting did not allow all three of their dogs and asked us if we wanted to have Olive, what else could we have said?  Sure, my husband and I thought about it and discussed it privately for a few days.  We were already considering getting our daughter a dog in the future, possibly in a few months.

So Olive came to live in our home, first temporarily but knowing it could be permanent.

Olive more than tolerated our exuberant and energetic youngest child, Jason who was not yet 2 when she came to live with us.  We watched the two of them very closely in the beginning and had some couch “resource guarding behavior” to deal with initially but Olive otherwise had nothing but kisses and love for our toddler.  I am sure it helped that he gave her treats whenever he could get a hold of them and often as many treats as he could give her.

I am even more grateful for my daughter, Abby, thanking me for Olive. 

I am happy to say that one year later, and much time and effort helping my daughter with her anxiety disordrer (OCD), she spontaneously thanked me for her dog, Olive.  It is exciting to see her running up to Olive and saying “I love my puppy!”

Abby, gave me a Thank You card the other day. She thanked me for giving her:  life, love, giving to her, our cat, Peanut and Olive.  It was one of those miraculous moments of motherhood that you cherish forever.  One that erases hours, days and years of challenges.  For my daughter, it was also a monumental point for her given her experiences over the past year or so.  An expression of her new ability to write and express herself on her own and an amazing turning point in her life with severe anxiety- a sign of the “real Abby” the beautiful soul who is without fear and is pure love and joy. A reminder to the rest of us as to who she really is.

Today Abby asked me, “Why is Olive always already outside when I wake up?”

I resisted the urge to say, ‘Because you wake up so late and often don’t get out of bed until 9:30 or later’.  Instead, I saw her need and interest in spending time with her dog (something to be celebrated!)  in the morning and told her that I could bring Olive inside for her.  And I joyfully, brought Olive back in the house.

I realize that there are not words to describe or  fully express the magnificence of these small but huge leaps for my daughter.  She has always loved Olive and continued to when Olive came to live with us.  Yet, within days of Olive moving into our home, Olive became part of my daughter’s anxiety disorder.  She could not touch Olive for some time, maybe with her arm or the back of her hand and then later only if she had washed her hands for a certain length of time (read: a very long time).  She quickly grew unable to feed Olive- she couldn’t touch the container that held her food, and for some time, she couldn’t hold her leash.

At the beginning of this year, my sister, an animal love, dog behaviorist and kindred spirit with my daughter,   began coming to visit monthly, and spend time with Abby and Olive.  With those visits combined with Abby and Olive  taking a local dog training class, we have seen  improvements with my daughter being able to do more with Olive and improvements with her anxiety.   I used to have to bring Olive to Abby when she was in a “stuck place” and I would say, “Her’s your dog, Abby.  Olive loves you no matter what.”

Take all that I have described and multiply it in your mind by 1000 and now you have a glimmer of understanding of her life over the past year.

Abby may have a long way to go with her anxiety and maybe a lifetime of managing OCD, yet, to see her enjoying her dog brings us hope.  We want our children to be happy. When a child has had an experience of pure hell;  an experience that takes away her childhood  innocence , as her parent, you just want to take it all away and make it all better.    As much as I have wanted to take away her pain,  I have always known that I can’t do that.   It is her life to live and my job is to love her  and provide support and encouragement for her.  I can comfort her, but I can not take away the ‘bad’stuff, nor can I always make it better.

So to hear Abby thank me for her dog and to see her joyfully and spontaneously run  up to Olive and hug her and spend time with her is truly an amazing and beautiful sight to behold.  Our daughter is coming back.  She is showing wonderful moments of her true self, without the fear and anxiety and it fills my heart with joy and gratitude.