Posted on May 31, 2016
Parents want their kids to be okay - as in my twenty-two year old son is biking across country this summer and I want him to be okay. Okay as in when my daughter was two and was hospitalized with a treatment-resistant infection and I wanted her to be okay. Okay as in I wanted the doctors to find an antibiotic – any antibiotic that worked. I wanted something to work.
Recently in my practice I have had two mothers call for help for their teenage daughters. There are some similarities between them. Both teens are fifteen, both just got released from inpatient mental health facilities. Both girls are diagnosed with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). But there are differences as well; one of the girls is experiencing schizophrenic symptomology. The bottom line is that both girls have mothers that care and care deeply about their daughter’s mental health and well-being. There is a desperate, almost pleading quality to their request for treatment. Will it work, will my daughter be okay? How much will it cost? How many sessions will they need? When can I meet with you? Soon. They both want appointments soon and so I schedule them in for two blocks of time in the next two weeks.
I think about the seventeen year-old boy who has been seeing me now for six months since he exited his inpatient treatment – also diagnosed with PTSD and depression. As I help him, how am I helping his mother cope with her son’s mental illness. Last session he had trouble staying awake due to a change in his medication. I let him rest while I sought out his mother in my other consultation room. His mother looked at me and said, “I just want him to be okay,” and then she cried.
“Okay” to some may seem like mediocrity, like selling out in our fast-paced world, but really “okay” means so much more when is comes to parents and children and mental health. To be okay is to be stable, healthy, and functional – to hope for the best possible outcome in adverse circumstances.
“It’s going to be okay,” can be surprisingly simple but comforting words to say to a client or their parent. It communicates a sense of hope and confidence.
As I strive for excellence in my practice, I also know that it’s okay to just be okay. It implies radical acceptance of myself and my environment right in the present moment.
Okay-ness is mindfulness at it’s best. It speaks to that gentle strength that we all have somewhere inside us. And so, for today, as I move through my day with clients and children of my own, I say “it’s all okay.”
Martha Wakenshaw is a licensed private practice Counselor on Bainbride Island, WA as well as a Guardian Ad Litem in Snohomish County, WA. Read more about Martha here.