bookmark_borderOur First Day at Rogers was disappointing. Part 2 in a series about our experiences there.

A person's arm is tilted upward showing the face of a watch.  On our first day at Rogers Behavioral Health, we spent over 5 hours waiting with nothing to do.
Our first day consisted of over FIVE hours of waiting, doing nothing related to the program. Photo by JÉSHOOTS from Pexels

Our first day at Rogers was disappointing. Little did I know it was a foreshadowing of what was to come. (This is part 2, part 1 is here.)

If you read my entries prior to arriving in Chicago, you know how hopeful I was to be going. You know that I was excited to be working with a team of professionals who had extensive experience helping autistic teenagers with depression and anxiety disorders, including OCD. I was ready to do the hard work alongside those professionals, to learn all I could from them, and to support my son during the challenging hours, days, and weeks of therapy. I was willing to suffer the separation from my family because of the hope that was offered.

I had another virtual appointment with the intake coordinator the day before our start date. She went over some logistical things, including what time we should arrive, that we would go through a brief covid screening each morning, that we would have to remove our own masks (because we wore them in the lobby and elevator) and then wear disposable masks provided by Rogers. She informed me that we would need to wear these masks all day. She told me to bring our lunches as we would have only thirty minutes for lunch. The intake coordinator also told me to bring some type of device to use for any virtual appointments we would have.

We arrived at 8 am, as directed. We did the brief covid screening, took off our personal masks, and put on the disposable masks provided by Rogers. We were led to a very small room which had 3 chairs, a very small table, and a small whiteboard on the wall. And we were left there.

After waiting awhile, someone named Cathy (not her real name) came into the room. She said we had a virtual appointment with a nurse and I needed to use the link waiting in my email inbox. So I asked for the Wi-Fi password and logged in for the appointment. The nurse asked us questions about my son’s health history for about 15 minutes. When that was done, we waited again before being taken to another room to check my son’s vitals. Then we were taken back to the little room to wait some more. And wait. And wait. And wait.

Cathy back back into the room. She said hello to us and said she was going to talk to us about cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). She drew a triangle on the whiteboard and wrote three labels: thoughts, feelings, behaviors. My son said that he knew what CBT was, that a previous therapist had taught him about it, and he went on to explain for a few minutes what he knew. Cathy replied, “Wow, that’s great! You know a lot for being 14. I didn’t know about this until I started working here.”

I found that last statement concerning. It was at this point that I looked closely at her name tag. It read, “Cathy, Mental Health Professional.” Over the years I have observed that licensed therapists always have some kind of alphabet soup after their name– LPC, LFMT, LCSW, etc. Some grouping of letters that represent their certification and the letter L, indicating that they are licensed by the state. There were no such letters after Cathy’s name. This was concerning. However, I thought that perhaps Cathy was in some sort of para-professional role. I figured that the actual work of therapy would be done with a licensed therapist. Unfortunately, that was an incorrect thought. It would take the next morning to confirm my initial concern was valid.

Cathy left after this, leaving us in the little room again, with nothing to do. She came back a short while later to tell us that we were free to leave for a bit, as we had two hours until our next appointment. We had been in the building for four hours already. Only one of those hours was doing something other than sitting and waiting. While I was glad to get out of that tiny room, I was getting increasingly frustrated at the disregard for our time and for our finances. Rogers bills $600 per day for this program and so far they had not earned much of that, in my opinion.

We went to lunch, trying to fill two hours of time. We were not supposed to have any interaction in public areas or even with friends so there wasn’t a whole lot we could do. It was a very pleasant early autumn day, though, so we sat in our car with the windows open.

When we arrived back to our little room, Cathy came and apologized that our next appointment was at 2:30, not 2:00, so we had another half hour to wait. My frustration with the disorganization and disregard for our time was increasing. However, I was convinced that this was only because it was our first day.

At 2:30 we had a virtual appointment with the psychiatrist, who was working remotely. It was a very good appointment and I liked her and was looking forward to working with her. One of the very first things she said was, “I read your son’s intake and these are the additional questions I have.” This statement is highlighted in my memory for several reasons. One of them is that she was the ONLY staff member at Rogers who said she read my son’s intake. While the other staff members could have read it without stating so, they indicated in various ways that they had NOT read his intake. We were headed into very troubled waters, very soon. I was about to entrust my fragile teenage son to people who knew almost nothing about him and didn’t seem to care that they knew almost nothing about him. The staff members believed it wasn’t important for them to read his intake or get to know him in any way before doing “therapy” on him (not with him).

The appointment ended at approximately 3:30 pm. We were exhausted. Not the kind of exhaustion you have from a day of work done well. We were exhausted from the anxiety and boredom you have from sitting in a little room with nothing to do, wondering what is going to happen, wondering what others have planned for you.

Our first day at Rogers Behavioral Health was extremely disappointing. No doubt about that. I texted my husband, “We were here for almost 8 hours but everything could easily have been accomplished in 2 hours, if the process had been even moderately efficient.” I was disappointed for certain. But I fully expected the next day to be better. Much better! It had to be better. We had come all this way and the program promised so much.

To be continued. This is post 2 in a series. Here is post 1, if you missed it.

bookmark_borderThe first night away from my children.

We had made it 550 miles towards our destination, we were exhausted, and it was my first night away from my children. I almost turned around and drove back home.

The day had gone really well. We left two hours later than I’d planned, but it was just as well because I had more time to hug and say goodbye. My son’s sleep has been incredibly erratic and he had been awake since 3:30 that morning. I was tired, too, and we took things slowly as we got ready to leave.

The drive had gone smoothly. As soon as we got through the first mountain pass, the wildfire smoke that has been plaguing the west started to thin. My son wanted to stop for lunch at Red Robin. I had hoped for something a little faster, but it was nice to be out of the car, too.

We made it to our first hotel and my phone rang for a video call from one of my kids at home. I answered to see my youngest, only in kindergarten, sobbing hysterically. It was bedtime. Through the sobs, I could barely make out, “Mommy, when are you coming home? Are you coming home soon?”

I had tried to prepare her as best I could. I couldn’t make a calendar or count down to when I’d be home. I don’t know when I’ll be home. My teen’s program could be as short as 6 weeks or as long as 12 weeks. But I immediately started praying for 6 weeks to be effective.

I was overwhelmed with grief at being separated from my family. I didn’t know how I was going to make it for three months; it hadn’t even been 24 hours and I was falling apart. I didn’t know how I was going to make it through this first night away from my children.

In the midst of those emotions, my brain automatically searches for reasons to be thankful. I thought of mothers who were in prison, who had to be separated from their children for years. Of mothers who had to travel for treatment of life-threatening illness, who had to, somehow, prepare their children for the possibility to grow up without their mother. And I thought of the three mothers I know that buried a child in 2020.

Yes, I would keep putting one foot in front of the other.

My sobbing baby was home with her daddy and siblings. My close friends all have plans to spend time with her, helping her feel special. She is and will be safe and loved.

I have so much to be thankful for.

Thank you, God.

The next day I had three phone calls with her, all without tears. She did ask if I was coming home soon. I wanted so badly to be able to say “Yes! Just a few more hours and I’ll be home!” Saying no, I won’t be home soon, made my stomach tighten into a knot.

Someday, there may be programs like there one we’re headed to in all towns and cities. Someday, this treatment may only be an hour away from our little mountain town. Some day, maybe a mother will be able to say, “Yes, sweetie, I’ll be home soon! I’ll see you tonight!”

bookmark_borderI love my home.

A distant mountain with a snowy peak is flanked by green mountains on either side.  A perfectly still lake acts as a mirror to the landscape and sky.  This is my Home.
Photo by Kevin Bidwell from Pexels

Home, for me, is more than a place. It’s even more than the people who fill it. Home eludes description.

Not every place I have lived has been Home. Some have been mere dwellings– filled with our possessions, filled with the people I love. I organized the possessions, I did all the necessaries, and I loved the people in those spaces. Those places were where we slept, ate, worked, laughed, fought, and cried. But they weren’t Home. Whenever we lived in one of those spaces, I had a visceral, constant ache for Home. It was subtle but it was ever present.

That feeling wasn’t unlike the feeling I had as a teenager, wondering who I would marry someday. Hoping I would meet him soon (and not scare him away). I always knew he was out there, somewhere, and that certainty kept me from settling for less than. Well, whenever we lived in mere dwellings, that’s the same sensation I had. Home was out there, somewhere. That ache that said, “Don’t settle for this.”

We’ve been married almost 24 years. We’ve lived in ten places. Only three of those ten places have been Home. When I think of the two Homes that have been left to our history, it is hard not to cry. It’s not unlike thinking of a loved one who has lived a good life and passed peacefully away. You know that your time with them is done, and that it was Good. Yet, you wish you could go back are re-live some of it, at least a little. You close your eyes and re-play the tape, in your mind.

Thankfully, where we live now is Absolute Home. We discovered it in 2013 and I cried the first time we came up the drive. We’re still here and, God willing, we’ll never leave.

Tomorrow morning I’m leaving it. I’m leaving Home. I’m leaving my husband, four of my children, my pets, my flowers, my garden, my messes, my routines, my favorite spots. I’m leaving dear friends. I’m leaving my early morning walks to the pond with my dogs. I’m leaving the sound of the trains and the crickets. I’m leaving the rustic nature of the most beautiful place on earth. It’s hard not to break down.

It’s entirely possible that the place we will stay for the next two months will be a Home. I picked it based on an inner resonance I had with the photos. I’m hoping that when we settle in, after the nervousness wears off, we’ll bond with it. Of course, that will mean a little pang when we leave. But the pang of parting will be worth it, to have a Home waiting for us at the end of what may be very exhausting days.

If it turns out that we just have a place to stay, that will be okay, too. It will keep us focused on the goal–returning Home with my teen who will be hopeful for his own future, ready with skills to meet each day.

Tomorrow is the day! The journey is starting.

bookmark_borderToday I sat in the sun.

A woman is holding a flower, her eyes closed, as the sun shines on her face peacefully.  She feels good.
Depression and anxiety in your teen will take more than you have to give. When you have a moment’s peace, and you can afford to take it, I hope you count it as progress. Photo by VisionPic .net from Pexels

Today I took care of my own mental health, just for a bit. It felt good. Today I took care of the mom.

My youngest wanted me to play with her. I was too emotionally tired to do that. But I told her I would love to be outside with her and chat with her while she played.

We’ve had a lovely summer, warm enough for the tomatoes to do well and for swimming to feel good, but not too hot. We only needed air conditioning a few times. Yesterday it got quite chilly, suddenly. Today was very cool, also. It’s supposed to warm up again, summer isn’t over yet. But, for today, it felt so good to be warm in the sun.

I had other things I should have been doing. We are leaving in only a few days and there’s much to prepare.

But, today I sat in the sun.

The household was calm and quiet (it can be the exact opposite, most of the time). Just as I was thinking I had indulged for long enough, I heard some swear words from my son in need, directed at a sibling. His OCD had been triggered. It was time to go in, time to head back to “work.”

The quiet and peace may be rare in your home, like it is in my home. I encourage you to make a mental bookmark of those times. To see them as progress, to see them as hope, to help you see your child. And take some time to enjoy them.

There is a cost. If I’m honest, I get extremely frustrated by the advice to me, as the mom, to make sure to take care of myself. The cost is often too high. If I take some time to myself, everything is still waiting for me and has possibly multiplied. Kitchens don’t clean themselves. Children don’t brush their teeth, pick up their toys, and put themselves to bed without a parent making sure it happens. If you’ve been Parent A for many years, like I have, then you know the cost. Nobody will pick up your slack. It waits for you. If you also have a child with a mental health issue, the stress, worry, and work increase exponentially.

Once in while, there are enough things done and no current storms. When those moments come, enjoy some time in the sun.

If you’re a mental health mom, take care of her, too.