Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I sit in lots of waiting rooms. When you are chronically ill, that is a part of life. Plus I have 2 children. So, yea, I have seen lots of waiting rooms. In the pediatrician's office, you often end up talking to other parents and comparing illnesses or birth stories. You leave having been encouraged by another parent or having encouraged someone else. In general practitioner's offices, it is a bit more dicey. You never know if you should speak to the people around you or not. But in most cases it is still okay. You make eye contact with someone, or you have to sit right next to them, or they have a book you love in their lap, great conversation starters. Since I knit, I am often talked to. People want to know what I am making, or tell me about their knitting or their grandmother's knitting. Small children find it intriguing and even teens sneak peeks.

There is one waiting room where no one has EVER spoken to me or made eye contact for that matter. It is the waiting room for my daughter's therapist. That room is silent (except for the radio). Everyone shuffles in being careful to only raise their eyes up enough to prevent crashing into furniture. They quickly take a seat, and pick up a magazine. As I knit, I look around and never once has anyone returned the look. Most of the people are there weekly as I am. So we share a space for 4 hours a month and never once speak.

Today, that made me ponder why? Even in the waiting room at the hospital where parents are worried, scared, nervous, there is some chatter. We ask what are they here for? We share what why we are here and even our fears.

So, my question is, we share what ails are children physically, but not psychologically. Why?
Well, I think it stems from parental guilt. We feel we have somehow failed because our child needs help that we can't give. It is somehow our fault that our child's emotional being is not well. It is our fault that our child has an eating disorder. Basically, as far as we have come in our thoughts about mental health, we haven't come far enough. No wonder our children hide their pain. They don't want to be the "weird" one that they see portrayed on TV. They just want to be "normal", whatever that is.

It is also from our sense of privacy. I don't want to be telling my kid's secrets. That is her story. But often sitting there the pain radiates off the parent as they wait for their child. I wonder, wouldn't it feel good to talk? To say, "oh, I've been there" or "it will get better"? Wouldn't it be nice to know we are not alone? My guess is that few parents actually share with their friends what is going on. So the child is alone, and so is the parent. How tough, how huge a burden that is to carry alone.

So the secrecy continues, the shame abounds, and our culture is still far behind where it should be. Let us find ways to share the truth, assuage the guilt and further our culture.

Till next time,
Mrs. M

1 comment:

fourlane said...


Your description of the therapist's waiting room is exactly right! Two years ago, we had to take our youngest to a psychologist for testing (found out he has ADD). I felt so strange sitting in the waiting room, as if I shouldn't see the other patients waiting there, and they shouldn't see us either. Everyone was hidden behind magazines, and you could have heard a pin drop. I enjoyed reading your observations on this.