Dear friend, I have been dreading this post for a while. I have started, deleted, and restarted so many times…I’ve honestly lost track. Today’s the day; I have to tell you about my child deciding to quit therapy.
This revelation came last week. I felt something building for a while, because David and Alex (my nicknames for his* depression and anxiety) have been on an extended vacation in our home. The bad days have been outnumbering the good.
He came home from school and said, “Mommy, I don’t want to go to therapy anymore.” Just like that.
I didn’t know what to say, so I listened. I listened to him tell me his list of reasons. Because my head was spinning, his voice sounded like it was coming from the end of a long tunnel. I heard him say something about being too busy to keep appointments. That therapy costs too much money. How he doesn’t feel like he’s getting any better.
Not getting better
I was floored. Did he really think he wasn’t getting better? After all of the therapy? After all of the work he has done?
I can see marked improvement, even in the last few months. When DAVID is really getting him down, he can generally tell me what he’s feeling and thinking. That’s a huge step forward. He has been taking over leadership of so many activities at school this year. ALEX would have blocked anything like that before therapy.
I took a deep breath and asked him to explain. My sweet boy couldn’t tell me much. I watched him struggle to find the words that would make me understand what he was feeling. In true Mommy fashion, I asked (overly) probing questions to help.
We just weren’t getting anywhere.
The mask got heavy
Finally, he took a long pause. Then he said, “I guess I feel like I’m doing things to make people feel like I’m getting better, instead of actually getting better.”
It was a gut punch of a statement, painful but necessary to hear. My child was telling me that he has been wearing a mask for months, but he couldn’t wear it any more. It got too heavy for him.
I couldn’t cry, because he retreats when he thinks I’m freaking out.
How much of his “recovery” was his attempt to show me what I wanted to see? Was my child exhausted from the effort of faking? My mind still can’t wrap itself around the intricacy of this illness.
I knew that depression and anxiety had taken their toll on him, but I had no idea that he had been trying so hard to keep them hidden. I especially didn’t know that he was hiding them from ME.
On the other hand, there is still a part of me that holds on to hope. I wonder, has he made more progress than he thinks? Has the disease made him unable to see it? Pessimism is his go-to…is this an iteration of that? Is therapy is pushing him to do things that he really doesn’t want to do, and he’s ready to stop being uncomfortable?
So…how do I move forward? I’m tortured by the idea that my son has been wearing a happy face while suffering on the inside.
I wonder how many other people are doing the same thing. Maneuvering this journey is hard enough without managing other people’s expectations.
With that in mind, how much can I push him to continue treatment?
I really don’t know. We’re still working on a plan. We’re both trying, figuring out how to communicate with each other. If this conversation had taken place six months ago, the script would have been very different.
I don’t have answers, but I know this: I want him to reconsider quitting therapy. However, my job is to listen, not to talk. My kid doesn’t trust many people; I’m working to stay on the short list. We have so much to figure out, but I am not feeling very good about where we are right now.
*to protect my children’s privacy, I will use male and female nouns/pronouns interchangeably
Let me know in the comments, have you (or your loved one) ever given up on therapy?
Have you ever felt pressured to GET BETTER…or at least act like you were getting better?
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