I have to admit that I thought I would wake up this morning feeling better about this whole therapy thing on Thursday. It basically wrecked my day yesterday as I tried to sift through everything and decide what to take on and what to let go. All of your comments helped me so much, though, and I want to thank you for speaking up for me and for understanding. You are so right about this being NOT about me or about ANY of us. For me, Thomas is my life. I can't tell you how many times I have had to give up some piece of myself in an effort to help Thomas in some way. I have had to turn down plans to do something fun, I have had to change how I interact with him in order to protect his feelings and many things in my life have taken GREAT consideration before choosing to go ahead with them or abandon them altogether. It isn't that I resent having to do that rather it's just a fact of life for a caregiver and a mom. When Thomas got sick I made a decision to make his care my life and I have not looked back once.
All of this brings me to an aspect of Thomas's therapy that I have decided to discuss. Had it been only about Thomas and didn't involve me, I might have let it go. Brace yourself, though, because there are some harsh realities to what I am about to talk about.
I told you about how Thomas has been having reoccurring nightmares about fighting with Dan and I and that those dreams are spilling over into his waking life and he is altering his behavior as a result. You should have heard him the other day in an interaction with his dad where he tried to carry on a forced conversation with his dad. Dan was leaving for work and Thomas stood up and, like a small, frightened child, he engaged in a conversation about his dad going to work and that he hoped he would have a good day. I know that sounds like no big deal but if you live in this house, you would know that Thomas doesn't engage with his dad that much most times. What made this interaction sadder was how it appeared that Thomas was terrified to be having this conversation but it was obvious he felt he needed to push through it. All of this was a result of his dreams. There has been zero tension in the house for a while now so these kinds of conversations should have flowed naturally but because Thomas is dreaming these dreams about his dad and I fighting with him, he believes they are real and that he needs to be contrite and engaging in order to head off any conflicts he imagines will happen based on his dreams. To me, but apparently NOT to Dr. K, I see that there is a real problem here. When Thomas can't separate out that his dreams are just a dream and that real life is nothing like them and based on his dreams he is altering his behavior, that, to me, seems like someone who is not present in reality. That, to me, seems like a person dealing with some schizophrenia, most likely some kind of delusion. In session I mentioned this to Dr. K. and he brushed it off saying he's "not a dream therapist" and he said it was instead that Thomas in the day feels like there is tension and it's spilling over into his dreams. As I said, and I will reiterate, there is ZERO tension in this house so Thomas dreaming there is, is a dream that causes consequences for his waking life. Dr. K. has it backwards but because he sees it the way he does, he didn't seem open to hearing what I was saying. In this instance, to me, this was yet another case of "I live with the kid every day, every hour of his life and I see things happening and they are abnormal and they NEED HELP" and you, Dr. K. see him 1 hour once a week and unless you really listen to what I'm saying you are going to decide for yourself what you think is going on. However, I think he has it wrong in this case. Very wrong. So, my efforts to help him to understand this failed and we brushed past what I had said and moved on to other topics.
One such topic had probably some spill over from the whole dream thing. It isn't news to me that Thomas often feels with authority figures that he is unable to speak up for himself. It is understandable that he has come to this conclusion based on history and conflicts we have had in this home. However, since Thomas got sick, since I understood how this illness affects him, I have done a complete about-face in my parenting and I don't yell at Thomas anymore and I certainly don't have disagreements with him. Our relationship, where tension between us is concerned, has changed and for Thomas to be afraid anymore that he's going to anger me with what he wants to say or ask should not be a concern of his at all.
Then in therapy IT was said. The thing that hurt me but that I understood on some level. Let me explain. Dr. K. prefaced the whole thing with that he didn't want to upset me but then launched into telling a story about Thomas from one of his past sessions. It seems Thomas is afraid to talk in therapy with me there because he's "afraid of making me angry".
Why would I get mad at anything he has to say. I can't imagine what he could say that would make me mad!
Then Dr. K. went on to tell me that "Tom is a much better patient when I'm not in the room."
But okay. I get it. I do. He needs a safe place to talk and he doesn't need his mommy around but if the whole premise of him being afraid to talk in therapy is because he's afraid he'll make me mad then that is flat out ridiculous. I really don't know where this comes from?!?!? Never, not even ONCE have I been angry at him in therapy. Granted I have gotten mad (like I am now and was at the time) with Dr. K. but even so, I have never shown my anger or hurt. I have...EVERY TIME...told Dr. K. that I am fine taking his insults and insensitivity and I said that with a smile and I did all of that to protect Thomas from ANY tension that might arise. I am not without compassion for my boy and his fragility where this is concerned and go so far as to sacrifice my own feelings in favor of keeping the peace in front of Thomas. I NEVER want to give him reason to be afraid.
But let's revisit this whole things about how he's a "better patient when I'm not in the room." Please...tell me then....WHY DO YOU INVITE ME INTO THERAPY??? Why, if I am somehow hampering Thomas's progress, do you invite me in and not only that you engage me in the process, all of us a team, in order to help Thomas cope with the things he is dealing with???
All of this, all of what was said, all of everything I now know about Thomas worrying I'll get angry about things he says in therapy, makes me never want to darken the doorstep of Dr. K.'s office ever again. I don't want to be a hindrance to Thomas's therapy and I was always left with the impression that I was HELPING. That is up until last Thursday.
The prevailing theme that came out of therapy was that Thomas is afraid of angering me. There is nothing I can do about that because that fear is not based in any reality over the last few years. All I can do is protect him from my own emotions so as not to upset him in some way.
Here comes the harsh reality I talked about.
To Dr. K.:
DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH I WALK ON EGGSHELLS AROUND THOMAS? Do you realize how much I alter my own emotional state, hide any negative feelings I might be having about ANYTHING in order to protect Thomas? Do you realize that even when I am overly excited or happy I have to hide THAT from Thomas because it causes him anxiety? Do you realize that I have bipolar and my moods fluctuate sometimes but because of that I have to rein in how I am feeling so as not to upset Thomas. Do you realize that I do this sometimes with the help of medications that I don't want to take because they sedate me but I make that sacrifice because I am protecting Thomas from ANY emotion I feel? Can you acknowledge the daily sacrifices I make in order to keep Thomas on an even keel, to keep anxiety at bay, to lessen the delusions and any number of other things I do that are now automatic because sadly they have now become a part of the fibers of my being?
So when you say Thomas is a better patient without me in the room. When you say that I am the cause of him being unable to talk. When you spend a session making me feel like the world's worst mother because of the choices I make in my life (like going to the conference or writing this blog), I must bring up the sacrifices that I make for my boy CONSTANTLY. I do not do anything lightly. Sure, I have decided to go to the conference, but do you realize the INTENSE level of anxiety I have gone through worrying about my absence affecting Thomas? Do you realize that even the choice to go grocery shopping with my mom on one of Thomas's bad days elicits a lot of serious consideration on my part whether or not to go and sometimes, in the end, I choose not to go so that I keep Thomas's emotions safe?
You know what? Yes, SOME of this is "about me". But why can't it be? Am I not allowed freedoms? Am I not allowed a break? Am I not allowed just one minute in a 24 hour period where I can actually do something for myself besides keep watch over Thomas?
I am angry. I am hurt. I am disgusted.
And I won't have my choices called into question in any manner than in a private way where there will be no chance of tension between us in front of Thomas. Yes, you are not my therapist. But I am Thomas's 24/7 caregiver and what I do, how I do it, and the consequences from that are mine and all of it is to be respected and dare I say, even revered to some degree?
So, okay, I finally said my peace. I am not going to sit on this any longer. There was so much more that happened but for today, this is what I will pick on. I do the best I can and I love Thomas with my whole heart. He is my life and I am happy to walk the world with him however I do not need someone criticizing what steps we take, how slow or fast we go or if we stop for a break or power through it.
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