Happy New Year

December was a tough month for me, mama-wise. The husband was gone at the beginning for a business trip and then took a couple of weeks off over the holidays (he goes back to work next week). It’s been fabulous having him home, but one effect has been a vacation-like atmosphere for us, with lots of sleeping late and little “school” stuff happening. L and I dropped the medieval history lectures we’ve been enjoying, we haven’t done any math, we’ve had no social engagements other than my mom and her brother coming over for Xmas.

All of which sounds (and has been) very nice. But it’s worried me, too, because as those who’ve been following this blog know, this is our first year of home schooling and we’re still in the process of finding out what works for us, content- and schedule-wise. So it hasn’t been clear to me if we’ve been “taking a vacation” or “backsliding.” Add in the fact that PK started Lexapro recently too and the horrible shootings in Newton CT and there’s been plenty for me to worry and chew over: is L’s video game habit “bad” for him–too much screen time!–or is it “good” on the grounds that he in fact thinks a lot about how game narratives are constructed, how games are designed, and uses Minecraft to build and design stuff? Is his gaming a symptom of ongoing depression or a sign that he’s enthusiastically pursuing real interests? Am I contributing to a “culture of violence” by getting him a nerf gun for Xmas or am I “following his lead” in providing him with toys that appeal to him in order to get him outside? Am I “enabling bad habits” by letting him stay up past midnight and sleep so late or am I being supportive by not forcing daily fights over his “natural” sleep schedule?

You get the idea.

But today was PK’s third appointment with his psychiatrist, and his first after reaching what the shrink said he thought would be the full dose of PK’s medication. PK reported that his mood has been great and his anxiety negligible, though I interrupted (PK hasn’t yet gotten to the point where he’s comfortable talking to the psychiatrist without me in the room) to mention a couple of recent anxiety problems that I’d suggested PK tell the psychiatrist about only to have him tell me that I should be the one to report them for some reason.

Anyway, so we then had a brief conversation about the difficulty of knowing how to distinguish between “anxiety” and “manipulation” (PK’s word!)–

PK: I don’t remember that. I think I just didn’t want to eat at that restaurant.ME, to PSYCH: Which is another problem. It can be really difficult to distinguish between what’s an anxiety attack and what’s just an argument.
PSYCH: Yes. It’s clear that PK is highly intelligent, and kids with high IQs like him can be very good at arguing with or outsmarting people…
PK, cutting to the chase: I can be very manipulative.
PSYCH, smiling: Right, that.

–which led me to my broader concern, i.e., what are we going to do about PK’s education.

“Basically,” I said to the shrink, “I’d like your input on the timeline here. Because at some point I’d like PK to go back to school in some form, whether within the district or simply by taking classes somewhere, maybe at the community college. Because as he enters high school, I really don’t think I have the ability to teach him the stuff he’s going to want and need to know to prepare him for college.” The psychiatrist knows that PK wants to be a scientist–and while that may change, of course, it’s certainly and obviously not a possibility I want foreclosed by homeschooling. (Probably more to the point is what I said above about my concerns with establishing a routine; obviously there are scientists who were homeschooled, but PK hasn’t been showing any interest in “doing” or reading science this year, though it used to be his preferred way to spend all his free time. Plus the difficulties with math.)

PK immediately started getting argumentative about the idea of taking classes or returning to school, which of course let me exchange glances with the psychiatrist–“see?” “yes, I see”–but the psychiatrist reassured both of us by saying, “keep in mind that we’re just starting to see PK recover from his illness, his depression. And he is clearly improving. I’d like to see you in a couple more months to see how he’s continuing with this medication; I expect to see continued improvement. Obviously long-term he’ll surely want to go back to school in some capacity–you do want to go to college, right PK?”–he does–“but I wouldn’t worry too much about that just yet.”

I asked for, and got, confirmation of what I’d just heard: don’t worry too much at this point about PK’s education. Keep in mind that he is recovering from an illness. Yes, a regular schedule is probably a good thing to strive for, and yes it’s good to work on getting him outside for exercise and doing some “school”ish stuff with him to the extent that he can handle it. But things are going well.

Which is something I really needed to hear; my own mood is so much lighter since this afternoon. A happy new year indeed.


3 responses to “Happy New Year

  • mfennvt

    Glad to hear PK’s doing well. Happy New Year!

  • occhiblusf

    This may be slightly tangential, but as a data point: I have depression and anxiety, and when both are bad (and certainly before both were treated) that combo manifests as a paralyzing inability to do much other than play video games (and I don’t even play world-building video games, just repetitive shit like Bejeweled). There’s something about having both that just leads to escapism being an overriding coping mechanism.

    Lexapro helped a lot; Cymbalta (which I’m on now) helped even more, because it increases both serotonin and norepinephrine, which controls motivation, at high enough doses. When I switched to the Cymbalta and got to a therapeutic dose, I literally went from “I don’t want to do anything but click things on my computer because when I click things on my computer I don’t have to worry about any of the nineteen million things I’m anxious about” to “Oh, hey, clicking things is kind of boring, what would be productive for me to be doing right now?” overnight.

    I’m not a psychiatrist, and I’m certainly not PK’s psychiatrist, but I throw this out there to say: He may very well lost interest in video-game escapism once the anxiety is under control, and you may want to ask the psych about SNRIs if the SSRIs don’t get the anxiety under control. (I have no idea if SNRIs have been approved for minors, though.)

  • Aaron

    You may want to take a look at Twine as a way to tap into PK’s video game interest toward literary ends. It allows you to easily construct text based games.

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