Wednesday, February 10, 2010

broken people/broken system

**Note: this starts out frustrated and kind of bitter but if you'll give me the grace to let it all out and then clean up the mess, maybe it'll be good. Thanks, friends.

What do you know. We might be diagnosing a little hastily after all.

Forgive the bitterness in that sentence--it comes out of being completely immersed in the system and seeing way too many eight-year-old kids diagnosed with three different types of mental and behavioral disorders and prescribed four different medications. This is strictly my opinion and it comes from years of observation and admittedly less classes/research than an undergraduate Psych major might have, but it does come out of all-around-me experience.

I don't mean to say that no one has any sort of mental illness and that no one needs any amount of medication--far from it. And I have a lot of friends, a lot of coworkers, a lot of people who are studying/already in this field whose opinions about this are totally different than mine and that I completely respect. However, it has frustrated me for a long time to see nearly every at-risk kid that comes through the system immediately diagnosed and medicated.

Now, I'm not a parent. I wasn't raised in a home where I got to see much good parenting. What I have seen are a lot of unstable parents and even less stable homes and kids that come out of all that with some serious issues, behaviorally, emotionally and otherwise. Of course, right? Why should they act any other way? Children even under the best of circumstances don't usually grow up perfectly behaved and complacent (this seems to be the standard of 'good children' who are medicated until they just sit there), barring the hope that they'll all grow up to only make good decisions and be fully in control of all their impulses.

So that said, I'm afraid I'll look back on this in three weeks and realize I'm just being loud-mouthed and obnoxious, so I'll say again: this is only my opinion, and while I'm coming out of a lot of a certain type of experience, probably I'm not very qualified to have it. And I don't have an answer to it. Nearly all of my frustrations with the system have stemmed out of this, but I have no solution either. I've seen a lot people helped with this sort of thing, with certain medications, and my argument doesn't address the need for therapy either or the place for God in all of it. The truth is that I've seen diagnoses and medications combined with therapy work. And there are more people who come immediately to mind who have been diagnosed and medicated (medications that change every few months or years in the search for something more effective, something that works) from very early, have had the therapy, all of it, and are worse than ever.

I have no idea what to do with this. Do I think if my brother had been raised with in some other environment than the reality that things would be different for him now? I honestly do. I don't think they'd be perfect, but if the help had been sooner and different, I think he would have learned a lot of coping skills that he hasn't fully gotten yet. I wonder what's been done by eleven years of brain-altering chemicals, almost all of which were switched every so often because they turned out to not be what he needed. This is incredibly subjective--I won't deny that I don't think I can be very objective with this.

What I'm saying is that there is a need which has arisen from an inability fix brokenness. I'm not discounting any of the ways we try to help--medication, therapy, etc. Just that there is not one thing that fixes all--apart from God, but even that's fuzzy since our definition of 'fixed' may not always look like his--and there is certainly not one thing that does it quickly.

My gut-reaction has always been to push all of this away out of frustration. The way it's being dealt with, the way specifically described in the article, has had me throwing up my hands. What do you do? A 'fix' is years and years and years and a lot of work, a lot of love, a whole heap of frustration and difficulty, a lot of the same things over and over again until finally, imperfectly, there's change and movement and hope. And even then it's not fixed. It's moving toward wholeness. More than anything, and especially more than before, I want kids like this to be helped, to help them. To help people whose lives and abilities/motivations to make good things are all in pieces.

How? Again, I'm really not sure. But I do think it has to do with a lot of time, a lot of love, more perseverance and determination not to give up (maybe this is the hardest part?) than probably feels possible. Stability's a big one, too. Most times I think our system is overwhelmed (they do too much and not enough at the same time), but other times I see it doing good things--don't misunderstand me, because I do believe that. And I don't think by throwing out one flawed approach we'll discover a perfect one.

I guess the answer is mostly in not throwing my hands up, not giving up. Knowing that good can still be done in an imperfect system. Okay, there's that.

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