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Staying the Trajectory

I work with frum women and girls with emotion dysregulation, many of whom struggle with suicidality, self-harm, and disordered eating, among other issues. Most often, these individuals or their families have previously been told that they "should" be in higher levels of care, whether that be residential treatment or a partial hospital program, etc. There is often encouragement to alter expectations of the person's capabilities and future aspirations, to cut down on responsibilities and ask less of them. Totally intuitive when a person is struggling to reduce expectations.


Why Ask Less?

And I see this as a major disservice. The important question to ask is why - why ask less? What function would the "less" be serving? Why ask the school to allow the teen to skip her finals this year? Because it's too stressful? What does "too stressful" actually mean? Does it mean it will be very hard for her? That's okay with me, her life is already hard, and this kind of hard will only enable her to keep on her trajectory, to keep expecting a lot of herself and improve her confidence that she is capable (yes, even if she fails some of them). Truthfully, if the choice is no finals or suicide, yes we choose no finals, fine. And the power of keeping someone on their trajectory, be they a child, teen, or adult, is profound, and in most cases, it's not finals or death.


Yes, it absolutely can be extremely challenging, and, in my training and experience, it only sets the person up to stay on their trajectory. Staying on the trajectory encourages, crazily enough, staying on the trajectory. And taking people off their track, surprising as this may be, takes them off their track. Is it possible for people to get back on afterward? Absolutely possible. And it certainly isn't setting them up to do so. Whenever possible, don't remove the teen from the stressful home environment because that will not teach them to deal with the stressful home environment. It will only support the environment continuing to stay stressful and the teen continuing to not know how to handle it.


You’re sick and crazy

It also unfortunately sends the message to the person that they are sick, that they are an unwell person who needs to lower their expectations of themselves and be cared for. When a teen is depressed, of course it is super hard to get out of bed in the morning (aside from the fact that high schools start way too early for teen sleep cycles), and that does not mean that a mother waking her up 15+ times makes it easier. The opposite - it sets her up to believe that she can't get up without her mother's help. It teaches her that she is incapable, incompetent, and burdensome to her loved ones.


What if we set an expectation that we 100% can reach these goals and do not need to play ourselves down due to our struggles? We can struggle with the most profound difficulties, and with this mindset shift, we can award ourselves all the credit someone with this level of struggle deserves - I am strong and capable. Not in spite of our challenges. Absolutely not in spite of.

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