Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Listen Up

Among other emotions, The Rock Chick is extremely pissed.

Why? I’m soooo glad you asked. It means you are listening. (I know, I know, you are actually reading. Semantics.)

Have you ever felt like you’re talking to someone and they don’t hear you? You are using clear, concise words that your average third grader should understand, so why isn’t this person comprehending or acknowledging what you are saying? This makes me want to rap my knuckles on their forehead and inquire if there’s anybody in there. I don't do that, of course, because that would be rude, but this happens a lot and I can’t understand why.

Maybe they don’t like what I'm saying? Could be they’re distracted? Perhaps they are just self-centered assholes thinking about what they are going to say, I don’t know, but today, I’m ranting about something known as “the lost art of listening”.

When and how did listening became an “art”? Is the ability to listen really something that needs to be practiced or studied? How did it get lost and where would it go?

Communication is necessary to human survival. You don’t believe that early man wandered around all by his lonesome, producing random groans and grunts that had absolutely no meaning at all and yet, managed to survive all of these years, do you? (I hope you don't.)

Humans are social creatures. The ability to communicate is not only pleasant (or annoying, depending on who you are talking to), it is necessary to survival of our species. Together we work and persist by communicating in order to meet life’s challenges. Speaking and listening are innate and essential. Intrinsic, one might even say.

So, why the heck is it so hard to get anyone to listen to you? Why aren’t people doing it? Why in God’s name is something basic to human survival now a “lost art”?

This has been a rough week in the Rock Chick Household. Despite all of our efforts and many different doctors, my daughter was not winning her battle with the eating disorder. From day and doctor one, I have insisted and told everyone (that wouldn’t listen) that while my daughter may have an eating disorder, something else is wrong.

Something else is wrong. Something else is wrong. Something else is wrong.


I sat with the social workers, the therapists and the psychologists and psychiatrists. I sat in groups with other families and I listened to these other girls and I listened to my daughter and I didn’t know what was wrong, but I knew in my heart that it wasn’t right.

Did anyone listen to me? No. Oh, I’m sure they heard me speak these words, but nobody listened. What is particularly nauseating with all of these doctors and therapists is that I was paying them to listen. If it were up to me, they’d all be in handcuffs charged with Theft of Services and subsequently doing community service donned in orange jumpsuits and picking up trash with little sticks on the side of a highway somewhere. Lucky for them, it's not up to me.

When I spoke calmly, my words were tossed aside by the supposed experts. If I yelled and screamed (because nobody seems to listen when one speaks in a calm tone), clearly I was the dominatrix of a mother trying to control every aspect about my daughter’s life.

One psychiatrist actually spoke these exact words to me “You just don’t want to believe your daughter has an eating disorder, because that probably doesn’t fit in with your perfect plan.”

Perfect plan? Who said anything about a perfect plan or a perfect child?

Look at this:
Although there is a broad range of symptoms, personality styles, precipitants, and outcomes that characterize anorexia nervosa, there is no simple explanation of its origins. In one widely accepted conception, the illness is viewed as a desperate struggle by the vulnerable female adolescent to establish a sense of identity separate from that of her domineering, overbearing, controlling, and intrusive mother.

I can not even express how “widely accepted” this conception is and I’m not saying there isn’t validity to it in some cases, I’m just saying it isn’t true in our case. Psychology isn't like physics, but sometimes I do think some people actually need that apple to fall from a tree and hit them in the head before they get a clue.

You know what I want? I want my kid in school this week, painting her face with the Sophomore colors and crawling around on the floor pushing eggs around with her nose in Homecoming Week relay races believing that these things aren't rigged so the Seniors win. I want my kid to argue why it’s fine to wear Old Navy flip flops with a gorgeous Homecoming Dress that cost us several afternoons and a mini fortune. I want to find half empty bags of Cheetos in my daughter's room instead of bloodied razor blades.

I want the only blues and demons my child has to worry about to be the Blue Demon High School football team finally ending their five year losing streak.

THAT'S what I want and if that makes me any of the above listed things, well, then color me guilty, I guess. I don't know.

What I still believe might be blessing in disguise, though, is my daughter is hospitalized again and this time one thing is different. The psychiatrist actually spoke to my daughter for longer than five minutes and then actually called to speak to me.

After a lengthy conversation, the doctor completely agreed with me that, indeed something else is wrong with my daughter. Something that all the talking and therapy in the world wasn’t going to fix without the proper medication. It's Bipolar Disorder, A problem with the brain's chemistry. It is a medical problem and will require the appropriate medications to correct.

My daughter almost lost her life because nobody listened. So yeah, I’m more than a little pissed, but am also thanking God that finally, someone did. My prayers, my wishes, had been answered!

Full of newfound hope, JW and I met with the social worker assigned to my daughter’s case. She wanted the whole history, asked questions, nodded a lot and sympathized with the catch-22’s, the process of getting proper diagnosis and the frustration we felt because our daughter hadn’t been getting any better and we honestly did not know what else to do to help her. But, now, with this diagnosis, we knew why and we both were feeling a sense of relief. We were breathing.

Well, I was breathing until this social worker called our daughter into the meeting and flat out told her that your parents are frustrated and it’s time you tell them what is going on with you and why you are doing these things. GASP!

Again, lots of talking and lots of words were exchanged, but yet again, no listening.

Neither JW nor I are frustrated with our daughter, nor have we ever been and I have never said anything that anyone actually listening could have even remotely construed as such.

I AM FRUSTRATED (gee, I wonder why?) with a slew of supposed professional and well educated adults who not only accept money for pretending to listen, but who actually make things worse by not doing so and then opening their mouths to spew a bunch of crap that is not only untrue, it is hurtful and harmful.

We have to go have another session with this social worker again and I’m not only pissed, but I am frightened to even participate for fear that my words will be misconstrued or worse, misused.

I am frightened and I am angry. I’m frustrated, worried sick and mostly, I am saddened that in this awesome age of technology complete with portable, instantaneous communication devices at almost everyone’s fingertips, that it’s still almost impossible to get someone to listen.

I’m thinking if anyone wants to find lost civilizations like Atlantis, all they have to do is locate and follow a trail of ancient high speed cables to anything resembling cell phone towers. When they recreate the human remains using “modern technology” they will find something positively breathtaking. Everyone will look like this.

It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.
Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 - 1894)

If you do anything today, listen to someone. You never know what you're going to hear.


Dustin said...

I really, genuinely wish there was something, ANYTHING that I could say that would make any of this even remotely better. Malheureusement, ce n'est pas possible.

You are right, though. It is a blessing that someone finally was able to diagnose that there really WAS something else going on with your daughter. To have your words misused, though, in this case, is intolerable.

Does it offer even a slight elevation of the corners of your mouth to know that the first thing I thought of when I saw the chimp was "Dance monkey dance" - and then laughed at the prospect of finding human remains at the bottom of the ocean that actually looked like that?

Even in your darkness, you are a light.

Jessica Morris said...

Very well said - this weekend at the conference the speaker touched on a very similar subject. She said she felt the art of conversation is dying because people simply won't listen, which means everything is surface talk.

I wish there was someone that you could write an 'onion letter' to about these "professionals." To not be listened to is not right, but to tell your daughter that at such a tender time is so, so wrong.

Would it do *any* good at all to go into your coming up meeting and start off by saying something like "we are here to support our daughter fully. We are proud of her and love her and want the best for her. We are not frustrated and do not want anyone thinking that."


Crystal said...

Oh goodness, I had no idea what was going on... I haven't been here in a while.

I'm so very sorry. Shame on those "professionals". SHAME ON THEM. You have every right to be livid.

I wish I knew what to say. We're listening though, if no one else is. I just wish we could help.