Free to Be Accountable

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Self-Care Tip #97 – Protect your privilege to be accountable and your freedom of choice.  Be a friend to yourself.

Number Four on Bella’s List:

“The day has been ruined!” Bella said.  Her eyes sparkled and flashed as she spoke of her injury.  Bella was not so pleased with her labor’s reward.  She was not so satisfied with being accountable for her children‘s behaviors.

Are parents accountable for their children’s behaviors?  That can be a question at the level of the law and a question of cultural moral values.  From a psychiatrists stand-point, is there a medical interplay?

A subspecialty in psychiatry is called consultation liaison, which is psychiatry for the medically ill and usually hospital based.  In this setting we often get asked is a patient has decision-making capacity.  I spoke about it briefly in the post, “Choose, Gladly, Using Resources.”  This is difference from competency, which is determined by the court. Decision-making capacity is a medical assessment of the patients ability to:

1.  understand:

  • their illness,
  • it’s consequences,
  • it’s relationship to their values

2.  manipulate their options,

 

3.  and communicate their decisions.

Can kids do that?  Medically it depends on their developmental level.  The court however has its own forum on that – I won’t try to go there as psychiatry isn’t law.

Another area in psychiatry where we decide that someone does not have the freedom to choose and we hold someone else accountable for them (called a “5150“) is when they are:

  • not able to provide for themselves food, shelter, clothing
  • a danger to themselves
  • danger to others

Are kids able to do these things?  From a medical perspective, it depends on their developmental level.  Deciding what we want for ourselves and for our children is a privilege for those who are able.  It is also a privilege for us who want it.  Freedom is not free, as they say.

Please watch City Councilman Joel Burns tell us about bullying and how we need to be accountable to each other: “It Gets Better.”  Completely amazing testimony and speech.  Cuts out all the b.s.

Question:  What do you think about our accountability to our children and to our community?

Choose, Gladly, Using Resources

Being a friend to yourself includes choosing, being glad that you can, and using resources to make your choice a good one.

Mrs. Smith told me with a barely noticeable arch in her back that she was still planning on God healing her daughter.  I don’t know if Mrs. Smith thought about how her daughter felt about that.  Was Kristy personalizing her illness?  Did she think God rejected her?  The problem of her continued illness must show something more than a physical flaw in her perhaps.

Will we know it when we are healed?  Until then, what to do?

Years ago, I met Fran.  She was pulling her hair out.  Her annoyed husband disrespected her for it.  Fran kept willing herself to stop.  She said,

I’m doing it less now I think.

The good news for Fran is that she responded well to fluoxetine.  Her anxiety decreased and she almost stopped pulling out her hair.  She’d wear her growing bristles pressed down with bobby-pins and hide it with her long hair.  As her hair grew longer, she had fewer bobby-pins and I knew she was taking her medication.  There were other problems between Fran and her medications.  Taking medication shamed her.  And, she blamed her fluoxetine for her weight gain and rash on her face.  She felt uglier than ever in her husband’s eyes.

I don’t pull hair any more.

Fran stopped her fluoxetine and half her head went bald.  She did not lose weight and she still had a rash on her face.  Fran went back on her fluoxetine and she has cycled on and off of it this way over the years we’ve worked together.  Somehow despite all our time together, Fran does not believe me when I tell her that when she is better symptomatically, she is not healed.  Fran does not grasp that her behaviors come from something at a genetic level.  We can treat her, influencing the way her genes express themselves, but in her case, not cure her.

We are a team.  She and I, and sometimes her husband, and sometimes her sister.  I give her medications when she thinks she needs it.  I don’t leave her when she doesn’t.  Either way, we keep trying.  It is very hard for Fran to know that she has not been healed.

I don’t have many clear examples of treatment-to-cure in psychiatry.  The statistics vary between diseases as to their rates of recurrence.  The brain being human, we can yell at the serpent for our insanity.  However, in the end, here we are.  As Billy Joel says in his great ’70’s hit song “My Life

Either way it’s okay to wake up with yourself.

The opportunity to choose our own answers, to decide what to do about it, and believing if we are sick or not sick  – is all our own.  These can be hard decisions but until we lose capacity to choose, we own them.  Decision making capacity of course is a medical decision.  But competency is a legal decision made in a court of law.  Having the right to choose is a beautiful privilege.  This does not mean to ignore counsel, evidence, data.  On the contrary.  That would not be a friendly thing to do to yourself.

Self Care Tip # 75 – Choose well and be glad you can.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  What do you think?  Agree or disagree.