It's so simple to be wise.  Just think of something stupid to say, and then don't say it.     Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Home in Turmoil

(No, thank G-d, the home in question is not my own, only the artwork).

This piece, Home in Turmoil (28x28x5 cm, mixed media), culminates my reflections of a year's work with a family struggling to hold itself together despite aliyah, divorce and remarriage + kids, financial struggles, and mental health challenges.  (This therapy took place not in the hospital but in a private family clinic where I also used to work).

At the center of the therapy, at least in the beginning, was the couple's school-age son, a bright and creative boy whose sense of calm and wholeness was disrupted by the fear and aggression that constantly threatened to overwhelm him and his family.  He could not focus in school; his bizarre behavior mostly defeated his desperate efforts to make friends and keep them.

Home provided him relative but sporadic feelings of safety, but even that was not enough to contain him and frequently his anger would burst through the boundaries, leaving him and his family powerless and enraged.  He relied on his acute sensitivity to discern when to trust someone enough to reveal that it was not him, not really him, rather the evil voices in his head who were responsible for igniting a mental anguish despite his will and far beyond his control.

Time progressed, therapy continued.  The physician's repeated attempts did not manage to keep the boy's multiple prescriptions in check with his fluctuating, pre-adolescent body-mind.  A three-week period of relative quiet and stability would be harshly interrupted by an unpredicted, unwelcome burst of fury, attack and withdrawal.  

Focus shifted to the parents as they struggled with their son, and with one another, to contain the damage.  Hospitalization was considered, disregarded, reconsidered. Financial factors, family issues, additional medical options -- all discussed.  The boy withdrew further and further into his dark, painful world until he refused altogether to return to therapy, leaving behind feelings of chaos and helplessness for the boy, his parents... and his therapist.

I wish I could say the answers are always out there, that it all works out in the end.
Sometimes, despite everyone's best efforts, it just doesn't.  It's true, the successes outnumber the failures.  But the failures, the if only's, are what stick in the mind, the heart, and sometimes, the artwork.

Keep the balance,



Leora said...

Powerful and painful.

What is the pasuk? Very hard to read the Hebrew. I'm wondering what you chose?

A Living Nadneyda said...

Ben sorer u'moreh, the rebellious son. from last week's parashah, coincidentally. Or maybe not...

rickismom said...

A very powerful post. I doubt that anyone who has not seen what mental illness can do to a family can imagine the anger, helplessness, and pain that this causes.
And, unfortunately we do NOT have all the answers.

[I used to work as a nurse in a psychiartic ward years (and years)
ago, and have someone in our broader family with issues.]
The artwork is stunning. Thanks for dropping by.

A Living Nadneyda said...

Thank you, RM!

We also have mental illness hanging out there on the family tree. Truth is, who doesn't? The question is whether we keep it locked up or let it into the light, examine it for what it is, and do our best to deal... It's never easy.

I'm wondering if your professional experience with people who have a "different" approach to the world, has given you special insight into your daughter's life, despite the vast differences between mental illness and DS, of course.