Today was the day the girls met the new child psychotherapist.
It was awful, from my perspective anyway. I’m sure it was very ‘interesting’ to the psychotherapist and family therapist we met with.
My head is a mess so forgive me if this is a jumbled blog post. There was baby talking, silly noises, scribbling, waving scissors around, manic laughter, flitting and dashing about and tears, the tears were all mine.
The girls and I attended a 9.30am appointment, there was a brief introduction period when we arrived and shortly after they were presented with a box of paper, pens, scissors, glue and small animals, a toy phone and a few other bits (I couldn’t see inside) they were encouraged to explore its contents and play with what ever they wanted too. Whilst they played the psychotherapist did lots of talking about their play and what it ‘might’ symbolise, he did lots of wondering out loud and labelling of what they were playing with and doing.
Big girls behaviour was typical for a camhs appointment, she was being silly, childish and flitting from one toy to the next, laughing manically and not really making much sense.
Middle girls behaviour was also typical, she sat back and observed quietly before joining her big sister in the silly behaviour and manic laughing.
Baby girls behaviour was less typical, usually she would just involve herself with a toy and pay little attention to the rest of the room. Today though she noticed her sisters manic behaviours, she heard their crazed laughter and incessant chatter and it made her feel anxious too. Perhaps she noticed it all because she’s older now, perhaps it was because she’s no longer a tornado of tiredness, perhaps it was just because she was ‘ready’.
It was difficult to see them all struggle but of all the girls, baby girl seemed to be struggling the most, her laughter was manic, she was making odd noises, her drawing was just scribble and she was covered in pen because she wasn’t really aware of what she was doing, she was even snipping scissors manically in the air at one point and demanding an orange pen whilst waving one in the air.
The psychotherapist all the while commenting on what they we’re doing and wondering out loud possible reasons that they may have ‘chosen to play with animals’, or ‘decided to feed the babies’, or ‘write their names on folders’, and ‘talk in to a toy telephone’ etc.
He remarked that their anxiety was understandable as they hadn’t really been told what to do so they didn’t know what they were ‘supposed’ to be doing. I told him that I understood that feeling as I too didn’t know how I was ‘supposed’ to respond to them during the session. Should I be doing what I usually would if they became anxious or was I supposed to allow them to free fall so the therapists could observe. The family therapist looked at me sympathetically and asked me what I wanted to do. I fought back the tears to tell her that I wanted to pick up baby girl, I didn’t wait for her response, I couldn’t, it was hurting too much to watch her fall apart, I wiped away my tears and I pulled her up from the floor where she was manically laughing, she fought my pull but I managed to get her to my lap and cradle her in my arms, I held her tight and told her it was ok, I stroked the bare skin under her t-shirt on her back and whispered ‘its ok I’m here’.
The psychotherapist then began to remark how the other 2 might be feeling left out now, as they also might have wanted to sit on my knee and have a cuddle. He then commented on how big girl then appeared (I didn’t see what he was referring too) to ‘look after’ middle girl. His comments made me feel rubbish, it was as though he was pointing out that I was neglecting big girl and middle girl in order to meet baby girls needs. I guess he was just adding validation to their thoughts and feelings, but non the less it left me feeling pretty inadequate.
Once baby girl calmed she went back to ‘playing’. They soon tired of the box and its contents and explored the various cupboards in the room and started to get out other toys. The psychotherapist tried to refocus them on his activity but they all pretty much blanked him. Still unsure of what I was ‘supposed’ to be doing, I allowed them to ignore him. I allowed them to get out the toys he was trying to take them away from. For a little while anyway, and like the sheppard that I sometimes feel I am, I rounded them up and reminded them that someone was talking to them and they should listen, so they did, well they pretended to listen anyway.
At the end of the session I peeled them down from the ceiling and herded them in to the car, where I calmed them. I reassured them that it was all ok, I did some wondering out loud of my own and encouraged them to tell me how they were feeling, by tea time they were almost back to ‘normal’.
Today has been one of the most difficult CAMHS sessions we’ve been to, and they haven’t even started ‘therapy’ yet!