Six months is a long time to be isolated. I am on a biologic agent for my asthma which puts me in an at risk category for COVID. While I tried to reassure my pulmonologist and allergist that I only get bacterial infections and viral infections seem to skip over me they both made it clear that I am at risk and not to see clients in person. For some clients this is not okay.
For me it’s been a struggle. I miss the in person contact. There are certain clients I’ve seen in person. What’s stuck out to me is those moments that feel so normal to me but when I step back and think about them they are so messed up.
Therapists across my state know that I specialize in Queer mental health. Most know either from me or through the grapevine that I myself am Queer. So when I get referrals, especially for teenagers, I know that somewhere in there will be some Queer stuff. The parents often have no clue or are pulling the ostrich.
Those are my favorites. Because there’s nothing I love better than calling out the elephant in the room.
A trans teen intake usually goes like this. Both parents and kid are in the room. Parent gives long timeline of depression and/or anxiety. Potentially some self harm. Past trials of medications. Therapy. Maybe a hospitalization. Maybe some family history of mental health. Maybe a divorce or a move, some transition that occurred that could have triggered everything.
The kid sits quietly looking aggrieved and cringey especially whenever their parent pronouns or names them. I can’t ask the kid direct questions because the parent keeps interrupting. I kick the parent out. Me and the kid.
“So what’s the story?”
“Got it. You out to them?”
Sigh. Literally a sigh. “Yeah they don’t believe me.”
“They never use the right pronoun or name?”
Sigh. Literally a sigh. “You want to be in the room or out?”
It’s that moment. When they realize I’m on their side. When they realize the trans stuff all over my office means they are actually in a space where some one will stand for them. The look I get is hope. I didn’t know how badly I missed that look until I saw it again.
I’ve agreed to do some in person intakes in the last few months, and when I have that moment. That hope. When I do some work with the parents afterward. It feels so right. Educating people not to be transphobic is not my favorite part of the job. But apparently it’s a part I’ve missed. Because the outcome, the hope, touches me. Motivates me to keep doing this work.
It’s hard work. Mental health. I hold a lot of secrets. In between my own patients I receive calls from other providers, former co-workers, former and current friends, relatives, etc. all wanting to tell me a story. All wanting some support, referrals, help. Hope.
One of my mentors always told me that she didn’t know everything but she knew how to be confident and that made people feel better and when people have the illusion they can feel better then eventually they will.
I didn’t get that at the time. But I do now. Prescribing medication is a small part of what I do. Giving hope and instilling confidence in the future is a big part of what I do. That’s been harder and harder to do in a world turned upside down by a pandemic. But I often think of that moment in Armageddon when they are flying away from the asteroid with Bruce Willis left behind. He hasn’t detonated the bomb yet and Ben Affleck says, “Harry doesn’t know how to fail.” It gets me every time. I mean literally sobbing hysterically which begins when Harry pushes Affleck into the glass elevator. Same with Titanic. I start crying during the opening credits. Because why do they show pictures of the freaking ship in the opening credits?
I digress. I like to think I’m like Harry. Not on asteroid willing to die to save my planet. But not knowing how to fail.
I’ve seen it throughout the last six months. Those little looks when Queer people feel hope. Hope for acceptance. Hope for love. Hope for their parents to use the right pronouns. Hope. It’s out there. You just have to know where to look.
***Parents****IT’S NOT A PHASE.