Rec - February 17, 2015

The main difference in Dionna after five years participating in Carson’s Department of Mental Health (DMH) program’s Therapeutic Recreation for kids (“Rec”), was that she could fall over.

Dionna’s mother had worked with DMH to place her in a temporary therapeutic foster home. There were no other kids there, and Dionna went back to her mom every week-end. In the foster home, she was supposed to be learning about how to manage the extreme emotions she felt as part of her Bipolar diagnosis. She had a therapist she didn’t talk to, an outreach worker who dressed like an idiot, as far as she was concerned, the therapeutic foster parents, who were always being so totally unfair with all their rules—no tv after eleven p.m. on weekends—what? There was an In Home Therapist for her and her mom, which is just another person who ganged up against her. Her mom had a Family Partner to complain to, also. And there was Rec.

Rec could be cool, if it weren’t for all those other kids. There was kayaking and canoeing, horseback riding and skiing. Dionna watched and stood apart, or sometimes shoved someone on the bus. And she was stiff, always on guard, inflexible.

When she arrived in the foster program, Dionna had wanted to have a baby soon. Why not? Her mother had had her at sixteen. But then her foster mother invited over a bunch of seven year olds for a play group. How totally annoying. She wanted a BABY, not a seven year old. Even worse—they’d be ten someday and want cool sneakers and she’d be twenty-five and have to go back to school with a bunch of losers so she could get some crummy job to pay for them. She decided to ‘wait and see’ on the whole baby thing.

It was just so quiet out in Ware, not like where she’d come from. Almost everyone was white, too. And the truth is, she didn’t know how to kayak or canoe. She was afraid of the horses and skiing meant learning to fall down right. It meant letting yourself fall down. It meant feeling safe enough to learn how to do something complicated and new. And no shoving about if you wanted to go to the New York City weekend. And she did want to go. And she did go, with her mom, who had never been, either.

By JAC Patrissi