“I Feel Like a Bad Mom… Oh Shoot, Please Don’t Write That Down”
Katie sat in my huge arm chair, tears flooding down her cheeks. She hadn’t relapsed, but DHHS was once involved in her children’s lives.
Three years ago Katie came into the program as a last resort. DHHS told her they would not even consider a reunification plan with her children unless she was in treatment. Our programming offered various levels of outpatient substance abuse paired with mental health treatment as well as medication assisted treatment (Suboxone). Katie needed to meet other requirements such as: such as have a safe home, a job and income for example. But this programming had helped her to lead a safe, sober, and stable life to build this foundation. Three years, Katie, since becoming clean, not once had she had a positive urine screen. Yet, here she was again, with DHHS in her life.
Her and her sister had gotten into an argument, she had explained, and her sister, to spite her, called DHHS and made up accusations of use. Due to previous DHHS involvement, they had labeled her high risk, and immediately enacted a safety plan. While many others have used similar excuses and stories like this one as to why DHHS was involved, I actually believed Katie.
Through the sniffles, she managed to get out the words, “I’m just so stressed. Nothing I do is ever right. I feel like a bad mom.. oh shoot, please don’t write that down.”
The words sunk into my heart. Katie new that DHHS could request all her records from programming, counselor’s notes, doctor’s notes, and my, a peer support’s notes. While I stood as the Director of Human Resources, I also worked as a peer support from time to time for the company as I had once suffered from the grips of addiction.
How could Katie open up to me if she thought everything she said I’d report to DHHS? How could Katie truly benefit from counseling if she was too afraid to say something wrong and get it noted in her chart? How could Katie work through her deepest worries, and anxieties in treatment, if she didn’t trust me?What about all of our other patients in this same position?
My mind started racing, thinking about our failures to our clients. Our shortcomings- not theirs.
“I’m just so stressed. Nothing I do is ever right. I feel like a bad mom.. oh shoot, please don’t write that down.”
I handed Katie a tissue, “Katie, if you weren’t worried about your parenting or if you’re doing a good job, or question your decision making skills, then I would be worried. Some of the best parents I know, feel this way at times. As a mother or father, you always wonder if you are doing the best for your children. If you are ‘good enough’ .. If you are making the right choices. That’s what a good parent is- always wanting to do better.”
Katie smiled behind the tears for a fleeting moment. I hoped she could hear my truth and compassion. So many times I have questioned myself, cried at night wondering if I was doing a good job. Katie wasn’t alone.
“You’re going to get through this- and as long as you’re doing the right thing, you’ll have my support every step of the way. And no Katie, I won’t write that down. You have my word.”