Monday, October 20, 2014

The Opposite Of A Psychotic Break: A "Healing Break"

You couldn't have seen a more happy, satisfied therapist than I did last Thursday. Thomas had his therapy and showed up fresh off of his Seattle trip with clear eyes, a smile, palpable excitement and happiness and a memory for the things that happened on his trip.

So I have to wonder, is there such a thing as a "healing break"?

While I am tempted to use the word "cure" to describe the new and improved Thomas because I would like that to be true more than anything, what I will use is a "break" in the flatness, the lack of motivation, the depression, the isolation and so many other things that are the hallmark of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

I was about to not be invited into therapy last Thursday but I insisted with the express purpose of helping Thomas remember all that he had experienced on his trip. With his memory being what it was prior to the trip, I thought he might need some help. As it was, he did a little bit and I got the ball rolling. Experience (and excitement) rolled out of him, one story after another, as I sat there in awe of this young man that just a week before had been struggling. I was rendered almost mute as he took over telling how he had passed one of his "homework" tests with flying colors, among other things. The homework that had been assigned to Thomas was designed to help him get past his social anxiety and in grand fashion, in Seattle, he succeeded at doing it.

As it goes, the plan was to get Thomas to ask someone for directions in a store or to ask someone for the time. With little opportunity to do that at home in the recent past because he didn't want to be out and about, Seattle gave him an opportunity to exercise his social skills. Then we found ourselves in an Old Navy at ground zero. I was dragging him through my power shopping trip before we left Seattle and he found himself needing the restroom. He found it, no problem, but it was locked. Now what? What was he left to do? He had to find the courage to ask an employee for the key.

I saw him standing in line, his gaze darting repeatedly to me almost as if he was hoping I'd rescue him. I was so tempted because the fear in his eyes just screamed for a rescue but instead I flipped through a rack of sweaters and watched him carefully, intent on letting him ride this out. He got to the front of the line and stepped up and asked an employee for the key to the restroom. Bless her heart, the employee was so nice and even a bit talkative forcing Thomas to interact with her. It couldn't have gone better. Thomas came out of the restroom and straight to me and I told him how proud I was of him for going through what he did. In a way he was my hero that day because he faced a fear and triumphed.

So, back in therapy, Thomas showed his "improved affect" as Dr. K. put it, and he told this story to him. Another test passed, another step towards healing.

Since the trip, with the exception of a few hiccups which I'll talk about another time, Thomas has been engaged in the world, renewed in a sense, and I can finally stop holding my breath for a while waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm going to hang on to these moments, this trip, the shiny new young man I got out of it and I am going to not take a second for granted.

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