This testimonial was written by a mom who was enrolled in the Recovering Our Families course.
Our son was recently involuntarily committed (by the court) to the hospital; a stay which lasted 2 1/2 weeks. He had not been taking his meds consistently (a requirement of his treatment/probation), had become increasingly withdrawn and uncommunicative and was losing weight. He stopped talking to the doctors when it was evident they were not listening.
This class provided me with the confidence to trust my judgment and make my voice be heard. But that’s not even right. It gave me the confidence to believe in my son’s judgment and help his voice be heard. I was able to draw on the vocabulary and communication skills presented in this class to get the attention of the medical team, to present my son who is suffering as a culmination of distressful life experiences – including and especially THIS ONE! – not just a chemical puzzle to be solved. To listen to the person when he says “no” (or says nothing at all) – to see this as a rational response to these circumstances, not just another symptom of illness. He is much more than a woefully incomplete medical chart.
With the legal system on their side, and my son’s refusal to engage, I could envision the doctors wielding the chemical (and electrical) sledgehammer so hard that my son would be plunged further into darkness and mistrust.
It wasn’t easy being heard. It took lots of visits, respectful, positive and hopeful conversations with nurses, an over eager resident doctor, social workers, therapists, and a reluctant and mistrustful son. I was finally offered an opportunity to talk with the attending physician. Because of this class, I felt self assured and confident; I could walk into the psych ward and not be scared by words like “guarded”,”agitated”, “withdrawn”, “doesn’t engage”.
I was able to turn these conversations around by recognizing that yes, these are extreme reactions, but, understandable considering my son’s spirit, temperament and life experiences. My respectful approach was:
Your job is to do no harm; your actions are now compounding the problem. He was getting better and now he’s not. The more treatment you push, the higher dosages you prescribe, the more withdrawn he becomes. That’s why he’s back under the covers again. If med compliance is the goal, respect his position and do the minimum. If not, we all know he’ll stop taking it once he’s out. Of course he’s not talking to you now – he has told you all this and you’re not listening.
All they could see was what he wasn’t doing; I could see what he was doing and hear what he was not saying out loud.
And they listened.
Did I do the right thing? Of course I wonder. But after discharge, his hospital social worker said to me,
“By the way, I want you to know that I admire your advocacy for your son. I wish all my patients had someone like you on their side.”
When I thanked him and expressed my doubts about doing the right thing, he unequivocally said, “You did the right thing.”
I still have lots to learn and find myself often coming up short in my interactions, not just in the mental health arena, but in my “regular” life as well. But now I can better recognize when and how I screw up (I say that affectionately without guilt!) and refer to the lessons to give me knowledge, hope and strength.
I gather myself, armed with renewed understanding and a full toolbox, and get back into the ring! I am forever grateful to have found you, Krista, and your network of support. I look forward to your next endeavour.
Back at ya with gratitude and respect,