Strange Symmetry and “Stepping Down”

On April 5, 2016, at the age of 10, my eldest child experienced the first of what would become a long series of debilitating panic attacks in a very public place.

On April 5, 2017, we had enough experience and perspective under our belts for me to dissect that day in this blog post.

On April 5, 2022, 6+ years deep into treatment for depression and an anxiety disorder, and just one month into a partial hospitalization program to treat a crisis point in their mental health; my eldest child was officially “stepped down” from the full day program to the afternoon program.

There’s some strange symmetry about this day.

So, “stepping down”. That means a move from the full day outpatient program (PHP) to the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). It’s a return to in person school on their own campus followed by 3 hours of individual therapy and groups ,4 days a week. It’s a big leap back into the real world, it’s a little frightening for all of us, but it’s also the next right decision.

We are definitely beyond the crisis mode that sent us looking for PHP. The child is stable – has done some good and hard work in PHP and needs to be back in the world to continue to do the work of becoming healthier and happier. The child is stable – and some light has returned to their eyes. The child is stable – and some laughter has returned to our home. We are all cautiously optimistic as we tiptoe forward.

When I picked the kid up from the last full day of PHP today, there was a request for celebratory smoothies. Clearly the only possible answer was yes. I snapped a quick picture in the car. “Why?” they asked. “To remember,” I answered.

To remember where we’ve been and that we once again fought our way back to some light and laughter. To remember that though there will almost definitely be unstable seasons again in the years to come those seasons do not have to define a lifetime. To remember the strange symmetry of April 5th over and the day of “stepping down.”

4 Thoughts

  1. Congratulations on this huge accomplishment!!! Wow. I know the work that goes into stepping down. And what an amazing way to approach this special memory. Please send my congrats!


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