This Week

“How was this week?” our therapist asks Blake.

“It was a little better,” Blake replies.

I don’t think I’ve heard those words out of Blake in two years. Maybe more. The final year of high school was a struggle to the finish. The summer was a descent into days spent with my newly graduated young adult sleeping all day (sometimes until 10 p.m.) and awake all night. He was angry with us, but couldn’t show it most of the time. We had taken college from him because he hadn’t been ready to leave home and now life seemed useless to him. Days were nothing but drudgery – nothing to look forward to.

Six months ago, Blake, struggling with both Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Major Depression, refused to attend therapy. When his father and I went alone and started acting more like parents, setting limits and applying consequences that made little sense to him, it got his attention. He came to therapy grudgingly, but determined to get us off his back, and to take back some control.

Little by little, he started to be awake more of each day – most days (there are still setbacks, for sure). He started to create a schedule for himself. For weeks and weeks he fought the schedule, but then it started to get a little exciting. This past week, he completed a short story and it actually felt good. It’s a horror story and, truth be told, it’s compelling and terrifying (yes, he actually let me and the hubby read it).

Dealing With Depression

When we went to therapy one week ago, Blake shared with our therapist about his depression loop.

“I feel lousy and then I realize that it’s stupid to feel depressed about what I feel depressed about. So, I get upset with myself for being depressed…”

“And then you keep going on a downward spiral,” the therapist noted.

“Yes,” Blake had answered. “I just feel worse and worse.

“This is actually great that you recognize the process,” the therapist told him, “because once you recognize it, you can change it.”

“How?” Blake had actually been intrigued.

“Once you know the pattern, you can catch yourself. You can tell yourself that this is your depression pattern, and then you can remind yourself that you don’t have to make yourself feel worse for what you are depressed about. You can remind yourself that you have depression and that this is what it does, but you don’t have to follow it and make yourself feel worse. You can begin to change direction.”

Blake had considered this. He actually invoked it in the week following that session. And that week, he wrote more than ever.

This Week

“It was a little better.”

The words resonate in my brain.

“A little better is a nice place to be,” the therapist acknowledges.

“Yes, I guess it is,” Blake agrees. Then, amazingly, he goes on to actually talk with the therapist for the entire hour. I watch them interact as they discuss plans for the week, specific ways the hubby and I are a pain as parents, and Blake’s love of video games. I am amazed as I watch my son engage. 

Spontaneously, Blake and the therapist get up from their chairs and head to the therapist’s computer to watch an animation the therapist wants to show Blake. I stay behind for a minute or two and observe. I feel my eyes burn and well up with tears. I haven’t seen this in so long and it feels so good to see glimmers of happy on Blake’s face. And then I stand up to join them.


Showdown and Shooting

Brand new baby box turtles

I found last week a difficult week to post. Blake and I had some serious run-ins, and our community was greatly affected by the massacre in Las Vegas. My attention was on home and community and I’m just now feeling like I can give a bit of attention to my blog.

On the Homefront

Blake continues to attend therapy, yet he is really not completely on board. I heard last week that the hubby and I “smother” him – his term. It’s probably true.

“You and so many others keep trying to help me. It’s like life rings are getting thrown at me from so many directions. I’m overwhelmed. And I almost feel like drowning just to get you to leave me alone!” he told me one evening.

I told him I appreciated knowing that he feels smothered by us.

“I feel like I’ve never done anything on my own. I wish you guys would throw me out so I’d be on the street and prove that I can make it.”

“I get it that you want to prove that you can make it, Blake. It just makes me wonder, does the only way you’ll be able to take charge of your own life and make of it what you want have to involve living on the street? Or can it happen with a roof over your head and food to eat?”

When our therapist heard Blake’s reasoning for continuing to resist getting better, he commented, “I guess you’ve got a lot of evidence to prove that continuing to drown does not get people to back off.”

Then he kicked the hubby and I out of the therapy office and met with Blake alone – which was actually quite nice, oddly enough.

In the Community

While Blake was begging for us to leave him alone, the community came calling. Thirty-six hours after the Las Vegas shooting, a colleague reached out. At least ten members of our community had been shot. Many more had been at the Route 91 festival.

“Can you let me know of any Las Vegas debriefing sessions in {our community}? I have one client who was there…another coming in. You are so connected. I know you may hear of something.”

Up until that point, I’d felt helpless. As a psychologist, I know the effects of an event such as this, but I didn’t know how I could help. Suddenly, I knew. I contacted our local community mental health center, a place I used to work and serve on the board of directors. I asked whether they would be offering any community support events. Two days later, I found myself on a panel discussing ways to cope, how to help our children, what we might expect in the days and weeks ahead.

The next thing I knew, I was publicizing support events to our local mental health community, listening to survivors’ stories, showing up on the local news, and connecting those with the resources to those who needed it. Someone added me to a Facebook group for survivors and helpers. There are nearly 350 people in that group. How did so many of our community members happen to be at this event? It felt like a mission. I became consumed with helping.

…And then I kind of crashed. I don’t know if it was compassion fatigue, but I needed to disengage for a bit from the tension in the house and the craziness in the world.

New Life

Just when I felt at my lowest, nature sent me a gift. I stepped into our backyard just before a meeting and was greeted by two, silver-dollar sized baby box turtles. For a moment, my heart raced with joy. Three months ago, I watched in amazement as my thirty-something-year-old turtle laid a clutch of eggs and buried them in her enclosure. Now, two hatchlings sat in the yard, covered in dirt – a beautiful reminder of how life renews itself. A chance for me to step back and breathe.