Not deferential enough: Looking for help

Posted Tuesday, February 18, 2014 in Opinion

Not deferential enough: Looking for help

by Gina Hamilton

It's been another difficult day.  Our talented, handsome, intelligent son is having difficulty again - because he has a mental condition called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

It looked for a while like he was getting better. He has a job in his field, and is good at it. He was starting to see friends again.

And then today, it looked like all the gains he seemed to make over the last few months fell apart completely.

It's not the first time.  It happens with dreary regularity.

He assures me that the whole time he seemed better he was just faking it.  I can't help but wish he'd fake it every day.

He's not a good candidate for medication.  He believes this is all his fault. He's ashamed. He needs to talk, ceaselessly. He can't talk to anyone else. He's absolutely sure life will never get any better. His psychiatrist put him on yet another medication that didn't work.  He's feeling miserable, guilty, useless. He doesn't know how to get any other help.

And for us, there is no escape.  On my only weekday off, when I should be working on any number of other things, including doing some housework, trying to fix the oven, finshing a long-delayed editing project for a friend in India, and finishing up editing the New Maine Times, I am once more trying to find help for my son, who is in crisis again.

He wants, needs, help now.  And of course there is no help NOW. There may not be help for weeks. There are no OCD support groups in Maine. There is absolutely nothing he can do TODAY, immediately. I reach the psychiatrist. He says our son should discontinue the medication.

I phone a therapist the psychiatrist had recommended. He's not taking new patients. He recommends three others.  I leave a message for one, one's not taking new patients, the third's telephone number is disconnected.

I strike out on my own, phoning five more therapists in the area. One says he'll call back within a few hours; he doesn't. Another says he'll check whether our son's insurance will cover his fees and get back to me in the morning. I leave messages for the others.

All the while, my son sits mute, utterly unable to manage even the basics of finding help.

We go through the checklist.  Yes, he knows the obsessive thoughts he has are part of the disease and aren't real.  Yes, he understands the compulsive behaviors he feels he has to take aren't really necessary. Yes, he could write them down, burn them. Yes, he could take a long walk instead of doing his compulsive stuff.

Yes, yes, yes. He's an intelligent man. He knows all of this stuff. But in the privacy of his room, he can't stop.

He cries. He feels like a worthless piece of trash. Maybe he should go on disability and stop working. He hates himself. He's not sure he's going to be able to keep going after this.

Of course he will, he always does. But it always breaks my heart to hear him say it.

This is what life is like with a family member with a serious mental illness. When there's an issue, it's not like getting a throat tickle and making an appointment in case it becomes a sore throat. It's already the worst mother of a case of strep there is.

We didn't know our son was even on a new medication, one of the side effects being that another medication that was keeping him on an even keel would stop working. Another side effect is suicidal thoughts and behaviors. He didn't tell us.  He didn't know those were  side effects. He tried to add more of the other drug to keep focused. It's a triplicate form drug; now he's out of it and will be for the next two weeks. 

And he uses that as a weapon against himself, too. A reason why he can't work. A reason why he's worthless.

I don't talk about this a lot with other people.  Maybe I shouldn't be writing about it now.  But trying to find help just shouldn't be this difficult.

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