Thursday, August 21, 2014

It's just crazy

Every single time something involving mental illness or mental issues becomes news -- say, someone with a psychiatric history gets into a shootout with police, or a beloved celebrity kills himself -- noted experts always weigh in to say they hope the greater awareness of these issues will help "change the stigma" of mental illness. As though "changing the stigma" is also going to increase access to mental health professionals and give people the cash to afford such professionals. Not to mention, absolutely ensure that therapy/medication/neurofeedback/deep breathing is going to be the exact thing the patient needs. Sure, that's all it takes obviously.

But every single time I hear experts talking about "changing the stigma" I can't help but feel like those experts don't listen to how people talk.

"Man, that party was crazy!"

"That girl is nuts."

"All the traffic was making me insane."

"Getting the kids to school today was just total madness."

And that's just the general terminology. We can get more specific.

"He is so anal-retentive about cleaning the dishes."

"Did I lock the door? I get so OCD about that stuff."

"I'm doing 15 things at once today, I'm just completely ADD right now."

"I'm so depressed that summer is over."

"This show is funny and sad and funny and sad. It's totally bipolar."

Now I'm not interested in being The Word Police. I've used some of the above terms and I'm absolutely not holier than thou (or anyone else). But you can't exactly change the stigma of mental illness, or mental disorders, when the language of mental health has been co-opted as slang. When the terms used to describe mental illness or mental disorders are being used, on a regular basis, as jokes.

I don't know how to change that. People dislike being told they can't use this word or that word and then they go on rants about political correctness and how no one is allowed to hurt anyone's feelings anymore and society is stifling them and blah blah. But I do think occasionally reminding people what those words actually mean, and that these are disorders people legitimately suffer from, might -- maybe? -- bring a little bit of understanding.

At any rate, it would make for a more interesting conversation than constantly parroted repetitions of "We have to change the stigma!"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is the kid alright?

I mean, I hope so. We've worked pretty hard to make him so, the past couple of years, after discovering that the moodiness and the excessive energy and the inability to focus and the inability to hear what people were saying to him added up to a diagnosis. We've continued to work on it even when I swear every single medical professional we've reached out to has somehow punked out on us. For example:

1. The occupational therapy facility promised they knew how to work with insurance companies, then completely mis-filed three months' worth of invoices, then called me in a panic, said kiddo couldn't come back until the money was paid because lots of other people owed them money too and they might have to shut down, and could we give them some cash up-front and they'd pay us back? A year-plus later, we got everything paid off by submitting every single claim ourselves, and had to explain to them that deciding to tack on extra money to your claim because gosh you had to spend all that time on the phone with the insurer is not, generally speaking, allowed. Kiddo never did get to go back there.

2. The pediatric psychiatrist has been MIA for two months' worth of appointments, which is doubly frustrating because I've wanted to go over the evaluation from the school's psychiatrist with her to see if we should change anything. We've gotten stuck with a different psychiatrist in the office instead, who spends .5 seconds discussing kiddo with me and then hands me the pre-written prescription. I'm looking for another practice.

3. The first behavioral therapist kicked things off by announcing, "I don't believe in medication." So when she also stopped believing in taking our insurance, I didn't fight hard to stay with her -- even though she did offer useful advice -- because by then, we'd come to believe that kiddo did need medication, and our belief and her belief seemed like irreconcilable differences.

4. The new behavioral therapist, whom we'd seen precisely once, was removed from our insurer's list in February. Unfortunately the office only discovered that TODAY. Less than a day before we were supposed to have our second appointment. I am not a loud person, but you probably could've heard me yelling at the office manager from three blocks away. I am, obviously, looking for another practice.

Practice makes perfect? I'd settle for practice makes competent.

And yet I know all the aggravation will be worth it in the end, if kiddo learns social skills, if he finds a way to settle in school, if his executive function skills improve, if he learns how to keep calm and carry on.

But it still knocked me for a loop when I heard about Robin Williams.

Now he was, despite what certain websites suggest, never officially diagnosed with ADHD that I can tell. (Or bipolar disorder for that matter.) His official issues were drug and alcohol addiction, and depression, at varying times. But if you ever watched him do stand-up -- as I absolutely did growing up, and loved it -- you had to have noticed the bam-bam-bam cracked-whip intensity of his performance, just a little moreso than other comics. Or maybe you watched "Aladdin" and marveled at how the animators were even able to keep up with his voice.

Plus there's his reasons for using cocaine. This is what he told People magazine:

"Cocaine for me," Williams told People in 1988, "was a place to hide. Most people get hyper on coke. It slowed me down." 

Who slows down on cocaine? Exactly how quickly does your brain need to be racing?

I feel like, whatever his mental issues really were, they weren't being properly treated. And if a universally beloved, massively successful TV and film star can't get the help he needs to keep his brain in check ... well, where does that leave the rest of us?

I mean, I can't even find a therapist for kiddo who takes our insurance for longer than a nanosecond.

I have to hope that what we're doing is going to pay off in the long run. I have to keep to the notion that previous generations flat out didn't know what to do about mental illness or mental disorders, and so did nothing. I have to hope that the whole "mental illness=moral failing" attitude is disappearing, because who could look at Robin Williams and say his whole problem was a moral failing?

I am never going to be able to watch "Aladdin" again without crying.

On the way in to work today, the radio station, randomly, played the Who: "The Kids Are Alright."

Yeah. I hope so.