* Note: Until now, I have referred to my older son as Big Brother. I feel he deserves a better name than that; it makes him sound a little too “reality show.” Since this post deals a lot with him, I am giving him a real name today. From here forward, he will be “Michael.”
I am sitting in the psychiatrist’s waiting room with Blake, while Michael is in the doctor’s office. Blake is playing with my smart phone, trying to distract himself after learning that the psychiatrist thinks he still has work to do on his OCD – and that he will not be reducing his medication dosage (See “The Psychiatrist Weighs In“). The waiting room door opens and Michael steps in. Dr. X pokes his head out.
“Can I talk with you?” he summons me inside his office.
I was in here less than half an hour ago with Blake. Now I’m in here alone.
“I had no idea that Blake’s OCD was affecting your family life as much as it is.”
Really? Really? How did you not? You see what he is like. You’ve heard about his refusal to be in treatment. I must look incredibly together when I come in here.
“You didn’t?” I ask.
“Michael told me about the arguments, like about what happened on the way to the cemetery the other day. And he told me how when he sets the table, Blake resets it. I’m really concerned. I’m especially concerned about Michael.”
“What about in particular?”
“When this arguing happens, he sees the attention Blake is getting. And he feels like the attention goes away from him.”
I Admit That I Bear Some Responsibility
“I know. I bear part of the responsibility here. I call attention to something Blake is doing that is OCD. Or I continue to struggle with him when he’s arguing. I know I need to stop that,” I admit.
“This whole food thing. It’s disrupting your whole family dinner time. What about that?” he asks me.
“I’ve stopped cooking for him. I haven’t held to it as firmly as I should have, but over the last few days, I’ve been consistent.”
“Can he cook? What does he eat?”
“He knows how to cook, but, Dr. X, he eats a lot of pita bread and yogurt,” I say forlornly.
“That’s not very nutritious,” he comments.
Yeah, no kidding. This is why this is so hard. He doesn’t feed himself well. But, hey, he often doesn’t eat what I cook either.
“What else can I do?” I ask. “Even if I buy the food he likes and prepare it, I end up breaking some rule and he won’t eat it anyway.”
“I see what you mean. You’re right. You can’t cook for him. It creates too much tension for the family.”
Have You Tried Family Therapy?
“Have you tried family therapy?” he asks me.
Have we tried family therapy……
“Yes. We went to family therapy when Blake was in treatment, but he refused to participate in the sessions in a constructive way. He argued and fought his way through it. That’s part of why he’s not in treatment right now. That’s also part of why Michael has his own therapist and why I was in treatment too….we’ve all been in treatment. This is hard on us all.”
We sit in quiet for a moment. Then, I have an idea.
“Michael has an appointment with his therapist coming up. If he is willing, and the therapist agrees maybe I can join in his session. Perhaps with a neutral person there, he can give voice to how this is affecting him. And perhaps we can find a way to get on the same team; find an approach that we can agree to.”
“I think that’s a very good idea,” he tells me. “You know,” he says, “Michael is an exceptional person. I hope my own kids grow up to have the character he has. But I think there are things that he is not doing because of what is going on at home. He’s being held back. And this perception of his losing your attention – this is important to boys.”
“I know, Dr. X,” I tell him. “We’ll work on it.”
Can I Join Your Session?
We leave Dr. X’s office and I’ve got a lot on my mind. How can we help Blake to move forward? How can we help Michael to not feel so isolated and remind him that he matters too? When we can catch a moment alone, I pull Michael aside.
“Honey, I’d like to join in your next session with Dr. H. Would that be okay?”
“Did Dr. X tell you what we talked about?” he asks.
“Yes, and, Michael, you are so very special to Dad and I. The last thing I want to do is make you feel unimportant or like you are not deserving of attention. Maybe with Dr. H’s help, we can figure out a way to work together and support each other.”
“That sounds good, Mom.”
“I love you, Michael. I give him a big squeeze and plant a kiss on his cheek.”
“I love you too, Mom.”
He hugs me back and it is the best feeling in the world right now.