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This Is What They Mean When They Say Our Mental Health Care System Sucks.

Several weeks/months ago I finally decided…I am past my own skill level in helping my child with his anger and aggression. It’s time for professional help. I can’t remember if I decided it on my own, but I think it was probably with the help of my Twitter friends. Oddly enough, Twitter is the place I go when I’m my most vulnerable. And I have yet to be disappointed with the feedback I get.

Anyway – that’s a big step. Admitting there’s a mental health issue that your child might need help with. My defensive instincts felt like this was was another way of saying, “I suck as a Mother.” Logically, there is a part of me that knows that’s not true. But emotionally? Admitting I needed help? Was like admitting failure to my child.

But…I made that step. I admitted I needed help. His violence and aggression towards me was not getting better and I didn’t want him continuing these habits into adulthood. It made me feel better when someone compared it to having an obese child due to their own bad health habits. “You wouldn’t want them carrying their obesity into adulthood, right? You’d want them to learn better habits as a child, before those habits settled into any sort of permanence.”

So! I admitted I needed someone to help me, help him.

I pulled up my insurance and did the whole “find a doctor” thing. I selected my “network” based on the letters on the card. I found several doctors in town. I even found a few at one practice that came highly recommended. I contacted them via phone (which was very tricky to work up the nerve to do) and then they called me back the next day and said, “Sorry. We don’t take your insurance. You can come to us, but we’re out of network and it will cost the deductible and then your insurance will pay for half.”

All of that effort, and we had nothing.

The most frustrating part was that I wasn’t sure what I had done wrong in my search to end up at a doctor that my insurance didn’t work with. I USED THE WEBSITE! That doctor was on the list! ARG.

I decided maybe the need wasn’t that urgent, and went about my life.

But things weren’t better. We still had several bad anger/aggression episodes. Every time I kept thinking, “I need help.” But I didn’t want to go through all of the effort again just to find out we couldn’t afford it.

Until this morning when Wes had one of the worst episodes he’s ever had, triggered by one of the most benign incidents that have ever triggered him. It was bad. He was verbally abusive (which is an everyday thing most days) and he got physical with me. Several times. Over and over again.

So I decided to jump through the hoops again.

I started by calling the insurance company. It turns out my error last time was in choosing the network based on the letters on my card. Yes. That seems like the logical choice. But it’s not the RIGHT one. Our plan is actually a little different, so I had to choose a different type of network, one that wasn’t written on my card ANYWHERE. And when I chose that network? No doctors in my city popped up. So I started crying to the lady on the other end of the phone. Because my son had just smacked me in the face – on purpose – with his jacket and I couldn’t find him a doctor that was covered by my insurance, inside my city limits. Here I am, desperate to find him help to keep him from being an abusive adult, and I’m running into road block after road block. And I lost my shit on the phone with a stranger. I just sobbed. There’s crying, and there’s sobbing. I was sobbing. I was sobbing so hard I gave myself a headache.

Donnie was pretty sure there was ancillary benefits that we could look into, he found something in his benefits package that might help. But…it required a phone call to human resources and I was NOT in the mood to do that. I was having a hard enough time keeping my shit together with the lady at Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Don’t stick me on the phone with someone my husband actually works with.

So…I called someone listed in my network from an adjacent city. We’re still talking only a 45 minute drive, not too bad. And they had pediatric specialists. But I had to call again and go through a lot of stuff on the phone again. I had to explain what Wes was doing so they’d know what to evaluate him for. I had to say, out loud, “He is getting violent with me.” And this is just my KID. All I kept thinking about was – WHAT IF THIS WAS A CALL FOR MYSELF? All of these hoops…at least I could say they were for my kid. But if they were to find myself a doctor for my own mental health? I’m not sure I would have made it past the first attempt. Hours of failed attempts to finally find a doctor that MIGHT be covered by my insurance and then…

“What does the doctor need to evaluate you for?”
“Anxiety and Depression.”

No. I don’t see that happening. I would see me hanging up and never seeking the help I need.

Here’s the thing. If you’re bleeding? You go to the ER. If you can’t drive yourself? You call an ambulance. You don’t have to worry about anyone judging you because you couldn’t fix the gaping wound yourself. No. Saying, “I think I need stitches,” doesn’t make you feel shame. And no one makes you jump through hoops just to find a doctor 2 towns over.

I had a hard time and it took several weeks to finally make an appointment to get my son help. And who knows…the doctor might suck. Then what? Will I go through it all again? If it were for me? No. I would not. I’d suck it up and try to treat myself. But it’s for my kid, so I can be a little more detached.

My point? Be aware of these challenges. Be aware of the difficulty in finding affordable mental health providers. And we at least have some coverage on our insurance. Some people have none. And be aware that when/if you find a doctor that your insurance covers, it feels very shameful to ask for those appointments because our society does not acknowledge mental health as a priority.

If you have a parent, or a sibling, or a spouse who might could benefit from mental health care…maybe you can advocate for them? Ask them if they’ve ever considered it. If they have? Offer to help them find it. Tell them you have this friend who was trying to find a doctor for her son and she had a full-blown anxiety attack in the process. Tell them you promised this friend (me) that you would help any other friend or family who might need to schedule the same kind of appointment. If they’re family? Offer to call the insurance company to find a list of doctors. Offer to make an appointment. Offer to jump through the hoops for them if you really think they could benefit. Because after my own challenges? I have now decided that there are too many people out there who NEED help, but aren’t getting it because it is such a giant pain in the ass to just make an appointment to ask for help.

We’re lucky. We found a doctor that is covered and it’s a reasonable drive. Now, there weren’t many on the “reasonable” drive list. If this one or the others don’t work out, we may have to drive 2+ hours for help. Or we may have to just pay for it out of pocket. Here’s hoping we don’t have to cross that bridge and that this doctor in the neighboring town works out great.

Because I don’t want to have to cry to another complete stranger on the phone.

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A Good Day/Night.

Wesley’s behavior is still a bit of a wild crapshoot lately.

(What is a crapshoot? Am I even using that term correctly? When can I just say outloud, “Google…define: ‘crapshoot'” and something happens? Will someone make me another cup of coffee?)

As always, when he’s good? He’s great. But man…sometimes those moments are spread out across days.

His thing is still anger. We’re still working with him on how to express anger and frustration. I’ve basically put a moratorium on yelling (which is VERY hard on me, I’m a yeller) until his “Go To” move is not to scream at me when he’s mad at me. He’s not hitting me anymore (knock on wood) but it probably helps that I am handling MY anger towards him better. When he was in his “hitting” phase – I kinda look back and don’t blame him. It’s really hard to teach a kid proper anger techniques when yours come straight out of the “Worst Parents In The World” story book.

He’s definitely understanding things a lot better, so we talk a lot, but we were still having a huge issue at school before the break. I think most of it stemmed from talking out of turn, but towards the end his behavior reports went from “not good” to “bad”. We went from hoping for the elevation of the “chip” from where it starts out every morning, to begging him not do drop the chip BELOW that point.

Your standards change so quickly as a parent.

His last few weeks before break were a much higher percentage of “bad behavior” than “standard” or “good” and I was getting worried that my kid was becoming the problem child.

We geared up for yesterday’s First Day Back for awhile. We talked about what to do if our friends are being a bad influence. (He says – of course – his friends get him in trouble.) We talked about how many times over the break he made me proud with his good behavior (he likes to say, “I’m the worst boy in the world!”) and we talked about the things he would lose if he came home with a bad report.

So, when I was in the carpool line after school yesterday I was bracing myself for the worst. When I saw him walking up to the van I was looking for ANY indication of how his day went. He got in the van and said, “EXCELLENT EFFORT!” Which is on the “good” range of behavior ratings for the day! Even better than just “not bad”! We had a GOOD day!

I was so relieved. I know it’s just one day but it’s one day in the right direction, and that is so valuable when you’ve been going the wrong way for so long. To celebrate we had our “date night” I’ve owed him for awhile. (I try to give the kids one night out one-on-one as often as possible. It was his turn.) We got his haircut. We went to dinner where he wanted. And then we came home and he had a tantrum about not getting to watch what he wanted on TV.

Typical!

But I didn’t let the tantrum ruin the day and I basically just told him I was ignoring him for that reason. “I’m just pretending your not doing this because I want to go to bed thinking about our awesome night and not about this tantrum.” After a little bit more grunting and screaming and writhing, he finally gave up and curled up and watched my TV with me.

All in all? A GOOD DAY. I wanted to document it because I rant about so many bad days around here, it’s nice to spice things up a bit.

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THE HAIR.

Sorry for the excessive posting today. I scheduled several entries to go live to test my new hosting package. Things will return to normal tomorrow.
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Look at this child’s hair! It’s insane. It’s not quite curly like mine, but it’s definitely not straight like his sisters. It has wave like E’s but is no where near as thick (yet?) but this child DOES NOT CARE AT ALL about how it looks. Sometimes he’ll be inspired to brush it but most days he leaves the house with this glorious style and I love it!

Every summer he opts to shave his head like Donnie does, but for the winter they both go shaggy if they can!

This is the last scheduled post for today. If you haven’t commented on any posts today, do you mind throwing me a bone here just to make sure everything is working for everyone on every computer and every browser in all the land? Thanks.

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Hope For My Adorable Little Demon Child…

As Wes gets older, I start to very easily see that a lot of his behavioral issues relate back to one thing: He’s perpetually bored.

At his parent/teacher conference a few weeks ago – she pointed out that his standardized test scores from earlier in the year were ABYSMAL. Like, in reading? He tested in the “needs immediate intervention” level. In Math it was close, but more like, “consider intervention”. I thought this was INSANE because – with his school work – it’s obvious he’s a good reader and good at math. But then his teacher pointed out a KEY element on the report.

The test time.

Do you know how long he spent taking a test that should have taken 20-30 minutes? TWO MINUTES. He basically filled out random answers and then finished because…BORING!

And when he gets in trouble at home? 9 times out of 10 it’s because he’s bored and I won’t give him attention or his sister won’t. He tortures BOTH of us when he’s bored.

It does help to see this as a “reason” because I can then convince myself he’s a struggling genius (he’s not) instead of a sociopath…but it still always concerns me because the only way he ever seems to have fun is when he’s torturing us in some way for attention. He can’t just enjoy himself in a normal way that doesn’t make someone around him crazy.

But last night? At Disney on Ice? HE WAS SO GOOD.

He made funny jokes, we danced, we sang songs…it was just a fun night all around. Sometimes I don’t like to take Wes places because he can be SO BAD, but last night? It was just a fun night and no one was torturing anyone. We even stopped on the way home for French Fries and STILL had fun even eating french fries! It was just nice and a reminder that he has the potential to enjoy himself without torturing everyone around him or showing off in inappropriate ways just to get eyes on him. He was NICE and he was FUN and it was EXACTLY what I needed to stop the nightmares I’ve been having lately of him being sent to juvenile detention at age 7.

Will he go back to his fun-by-evil tendencies? Yes. Will I continue to struggle keeping him from being bored but also teaching him that he needs to be able to entertain himself sometimes? Definitely. Will he make us all crazy? Without. A. Doubt.

But it will be easier with last night to remember that some days are better than others. They’re not all going to be a struggle.

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Balancing a Boring Blog Message With An Adorable Picture of My Child

So! I’ve been having resource issues on my blog.

(I KNOW…BORING! Bear with me.)

(Funny story: I googled “Is it ‘bear’ or ‘bare’ with me?” once and y’all? That is a REALLY popular question.)

So. Resource issues.

And it relates to REAL traffic. I’ve cleaned up my blog a lot so I’m not dealing with burdensome plugins or designs anymore. I’m keeping it SUPER simple so everything stays SUPER streamlined but it seems some of my RAM usage is simply traffic to the blog. It’s not “Make millions as a blogger!” level but we are creeping past the “minor monthly cost” territory and into the “needs to be a real budget line item” category.

And we have a tight budget, guys.

Donnie REALLY wants me to look into some sort of revenue options here. I do NOT want ads. Partly because I think they’ll stifle my creative juices and partly because I don’t think I’ll make any actual money off of them because ads pay per CLICK now, not per impression. I don’t want to do any paid content on this site either. Again – because I don’t want it to stifle my creative juices which are kinda lame as it is.

So…maybe a “tip jar” type donation button? Be honest. If something like that was in the sidebar would it completely turn you off?

Okay. For bearing with me (not BARE-ing with me)…here’s a great Wesley picture and story.

This morning he asked me to brush his hair. When I was done I told him to go look in the mirror and see if he approved. He looked in the mirror, smiled, did finger guns and said, “Oh, yeah. Wesley Man is BACK!”

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