Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Things That Are Therapeutic

I have been seeing a psychologist since my son was born. There, I said it. I was originally diagnosed with adjustment disorder.

Adjustment Disorder is an abnormal and excessive reaction to an identifiable life stressor.

I don't agree that my reaction to being told my baby was going to die before age 1 was abnormal and excessive. But nevertheless, I do agree that adjusting to my new life and expectations was stressful and difficult. Since then, I have found other ways to deal with stress (although I continue with my therapist!! :).

I didn't always use the "right" kind of therapy. I threatened my drug and alcohol counselor husband that I was going to start drinking. But I've never been much for alcohol, so that didn't work out. What did work out for a while was "retail therapy." When Jordan was a baby, I thought if he was going to have surgery, he deserved all kinds of expensive toys and cute outfits, even if we couldn't really afford them. And I deserved some new clothes, music, books, too many dinners out....

Since then, I've come up with some more effective and less destructive ways to deal with stress. Getting involved with disability studies has been therapeutic for me. It is no longer just my child, no longer just me as a parent. Disability studies has given me a wider perspective and a community.

I also have an "alone night" every week that has been therapeutic for me. I finally realized that my husband has one night out a week playing Dungeons and Dragons, of all things, so I should have a night to myself as well. I usually have something "bad" but delicious for dinner and then go shopping and to the movies. I don't like seeing any sad movies anymore or even many "dramas." I like purely escapist, silly movies.

The other usual things are also therapeutic for me: music; writing; a long, hot bath; putting on a nice-smelling lotion; getting a nice haircut. And actually, spending time with my son is therapeutic. It has never been him that I've been trying to escape from, that has caused me to need something therapeutic; it's the rest of the world, with their stares, their prescriptions, their red tape. Another parent told me early on, "You'll find your new normal." I think after 4 years, I finally have. I think all along I've been adjusting to making this a normal life for us.

4 comments:

Terri said...

Great post. Quite a list of healthy and positive options.

Cheryl said...

have you decided on next months theme yet?

Barbara said...

Excellent post for helping other parents see a range of coping skills. I ask you try to get this post shared over at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

Ettina said...

"I don't agree that my reaction to being told my baby was going to die before age 1 was abnormal and excessive. But nevertheless, I do agree that adjusting to my new life and expectations was stressful and difficult."

That's what I really hate about the adjustment disorder category (as well as many other things in psychiatry). There seems to be this automatic assumption that normal people don't have problems, and people who have problems aren't normal. About the only category in the DSM that suggests normal people can have problems is PTSD, and even there some researchers seem to view PTSD in that way (particularly those who study milder traumas where most people get subclinical PTSD instead of meeting the overly restrictive full criteria).