I have been absent for a while; please forgive me. LIFE has been taking precedence over the blog, but I’m back. Why didn’t I decide to write a charming fashion blog? It’s sounding better and better everyday, because it’s gut-wrenching to sit in front of a screen and pour out these ups and downs. On the off chance that there’s someone out there who feels a little less alone because she’s reading this, I will say good-bye to my fashion dreams and plunge forward.
If you read my last post, you might recall that my daughter* decided to end therapy. She just didn’t want to go back. I persuaded her to tell the therapist herself, face-to-face. Of course, that bought me one last session of therapy.
Related post: Mommy, I Don’t Want to Go Back
I felt terrible about it. It felt like I was deceiving her, or “tricking” her into a session that she really didn’t want. Trust me when I tell you, I didn’t have any choice.
How about this?
Here’s the thing: my child didn’t just want to end therapy. She was DONE. She didn’t want to entertain any more treatment at all. I gingerly brought up other options during the weeks that followed. I’ve done my research as we’ve battled these illnesses, so I was prepared for the next steps.
“How about a nutritionist?”
That didn’t fly, because my child likes meat. I know how she likes her meat prepared, and there are maybe 4 dishes on the list of favorite foods aren’t fried. A nutritionist would surely ask her to eat things that she doesn’t like.
“How about yoga?”
This one’s fun, because I’ve been a yoga practitioner AND TEACHER (!!!) for years. In case it’s a matter of not wanting it because EWWW, Mommy, I offered to take her to other classes. Not gonna happen. Too close to home, maybe? Next.
“Let’s try acupuncture again.”
I won’t even…it was a no.
And so the list went. I couldn’t even get a yes for vitamins. This kid missed her calling; she should have been a hoops star, the way she was rejecting every ball I tossed.
Wrestling with it all was overwhelming. The worst was how calm my daughter was. Eerily calm. That made me even more hysterical.
Depression is just a part of me now
We managed to have a few meaningful conversations between the NOs, but there’s one that really sticks out. I can’t remember how the convo started or the topic, but I do remember one thing. Somewhere in the middle of it, my beautiful daughter looked me in my eye and said, “Mommy, depression is just a part of me now. I’m probably never going to get better.”
I couldn’t believe she said that. She’s so young! How can she think that she will NEVER get better, when there were years of her life before this thing arrived? I mean, is it possible for her to feel that way?
Turns out, it’s 100% possible. Depression affects executive functioning skills.
BTW, if you’ve never heard of executive function, don’t worry. I’m sure if I asked 10 people to define executive function, half of them would say it has something to do with a job description.
Actually, executive functioning skills help a person regulate herself and get things done. They are necessary in order to:
make plans and carry them out,
focus on and organize tasks,
and set reasonable goals.
Armed with this information, things started to make sense.
1. Making plans and carrying them out
Going to therapy definitely requires planning. We have to plan around school and work schedules in order to get to the appointment.
Then we get there, and the therapist assigns homework. Things that she has to PLAN. and CARRY OUT. Can anyone relate?
My barrage of questions about her treatment post-therapy was basically an attempt to make her execute a plan. Even if she thought any of those options was remotely attractive, the prospect of charting a new course must have seemed so far outside of her comfort zone.
2. Focusing on and organizing tasks
I have noticed that my scatterbrained child has been more, shall we call it cluttered? Her spaces are a mess lately. I see this effect of executive function all over her everything. She doesn’t really organize her list of things that have to get done. Therefore, her stuff is in disarray.
Imagine a toddler walking around a room: pick up a toy, walk around and play with it, put it down, then pick up a new toy, play with it, walk around with it, put it down, then another, then another. Now imagine how that room looks at the end of the day. Yep. That’s a visual representation of a life with little to no focus or organization.
Stepping outside of that and being in a space where focus is necessary is hard. Therapy is a process that involves so much focus, and the homework can be brutal. I understand that it’s an important part of the process. I agree with the process. For a teen with executive functioning deficit, I can see how some of it can be an extra layer of expectation in a world that’s already challenging.
3. Setting reasonable goals
Where do I start? All of the above could probably apply here. However, I think this one is a special challenge.
The long and short of it is this: I expected my daughter to look ahead and make a goal of better mental health. That was probably out of line. It requires executive functioning skills that she might not have.
And she can’t remember
An important area of executive function is working memory. In order to accomplish any of the other skills, a person has to be able to hold information.
Thinking back, her memory has been declining. Those good grades that have always come easily to her are now taking SO much work. I see her cramming for tests because “I won’t remember things if I study too far in advance.” I can ask her about something we did last week, and she can’t recall any of it. I mean she doesn’t remember whether or not it happened.
My child doesn’t remember how she felt before mental illness took over. She truly has no memory of what it was like to NOT have depression. How’s that for a revelation? We’re taught that hard time don’t last always; here’s my child, stuck thinking that this will definitely last forever.
No other choice
I knew that I had no other choice. I had to get her back to therapy, no matter what it took. Even if I felt terrible about it. Even if it meant being the bad guy for a little while.
*to protect my children’s privacy, I use male and female nouns/pronouns interchangeably
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