Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Expectations

Hello, Strangers.

I could easily say I have not written in a while because I've been busy with work. That statement would not be untrue.

More honestly, I have not forced myself to find time to write because I've been digging myself out of a very deep hole.

*****

A few weeks ago Ryan suddenly started having lots of accidents - there was a solid week when he wet the bed every night. I didn't know how to turn this situation around, so in addition to positive reinforcements (stickers! prizes!) for staying dry, I established a policy that if he wet the bed, he couldn't play on the computer before school. Ryan was miserable, I was sick of hearing him complain about the loss of computer privileges, and the bed was still wet every morning. This wasn't working for anyone.

I brought Ryan to the doctor to see if there was an underlying UTI causing the problem - there was not. The pediatrician said we were dealing with a behavioral response to something that Ryan was upset about. He told me to keep up the positive reinforcements but to change my attitude and let the punishment go.

And from that night on, we have not had a problem.

Somehow, Ryan was feeding on my anxiety, resulting in bedwetting, which fed my anxiety, which made him more upset, which led to more bedwetting. When I changed my expectations and relaxed, he was able to relax.

*****

I've been dealing with depression for the last twenty years, with varying degrees of success. The last year before we moved, I really felt like I had control of it - I actually felt good, not just good enough. But since the move this summer, things have turned ugly. Ugly enough that I've gone back into therapy for the first time in years - and I hate therapy.

Over the years I have seen many therapists, and they've all been basically the same person: pulling thoughtfully at their beards (even the women), holed up in dark, creepy offices full of Oriental rugs, all asking the same questions. Years ago I got to the point where I could predict what a therapist would ask me, so I decided to save myself the money and inconvenience and just ask myself those questions.

But I've found a local doctor who seems different - she doesn't even have a single Oriental rug! She is action-oriented, which I appreciate; instead of having me talk myself to death, she helps me build to-do lists that will remove some of the obstacles that have left me feeling stuck.

I'm making an effort to take better care of myself, and that starts with changing my expectations. When I started taking antidepressants twenty years ago, I thought I'd be on them for six months, tops. Since then, I've spent a lot of time feeling disappointed in myself that I still need them - as if controlling my depression without the use of medication would somehow indicate I was a better person. Moreover, I've spent a lot of time feeling disappointed that I have not been cured of depression - that even when I'm happy and engaged in my life, the sadness is always lurking in the background. That I can't remember a single moment in my adult life when I was 100% happy.

So, starting now, I am changing my expectations. I will stop expecting to be cured someday. I will accept that depression is something I have to learn to live with, because it's not going away. I will try not to beat myself up when there are moments I can't hold the sadness in. I will have good days and I will have less-good days.

Maybe a sticker chart would help me.

2 comments:

  1. Hang in there. I am also guilty of my anxiety about Daphne's eating making table battles worse. She always wins, except nobody wins. I am also coming to terms with the current paradigm being what it is, there's no "one day it will all be OK."

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  2. Ah, expectations! It's amazing how once we let go of controlling our (and our kid's) behavior to meet an expectation (usually of our own making) how life begins to flow instead of flood over us. Thank you for sharing your struggle. Take care of yourself! You may want to get a full check up and have the Dr. check you thyroid levels and check for anemia. I think those of us who have had a history depression don't consider other physical options for how they are feeling (or their doctor's). Also remember our bodies need antidepressants like diabetics need their insulin. You wouldn't expect type-1 diabetics to cure themselves. Hang in there!

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Keep it civil, people.