Ten years ago, shortly after her son Westley was born, Diana Lynn McGee’s mental health deteriorated. She sought care, and she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression.
“I got medication, which helped, but not much more to treat my illness,” Diana said.
The next year, Diana delivered a daughter, Janea. Diana was determined to be a good mother. She was attentive to her children’s needs, even as she struggled to address her own. Then, when the kids were small, a traumatic event happened that compelled Diana to confront her emotional issues and seek more effective treatment.
The event was triggered by Diana’s quick temper. She was prone to lashing out and even getting into physical fights. One such fight landed her in jail for three days on a misdemeanor charge.
“That was the turning point for me,” Diana said. “I couldn’t risk losing what’s most important to me: my children. I had thought that I could control my mental illness myself, but I was wrong. I knew I had to focus on getting the help I really needed.”
Diana decided to come to Southwest Solutions’ Adult Counseling Services on Waterman Street. This was six years ago. Diana worked with psychiatrist Dr. Ratnakar Pai and counselors at the outpatient clinic.
“My progress was slow at first because I was used to just getting my medication and going my own way,” Diana said. “But the clinicians got me to open up and they involved me in creating a recovery plan centered around my needs and goals. They listened and were compassionate and understanding, even when I had setbacks. Dr. Pai calibrated my medications to work better. I learned to be in control of my mental health and not let it control me.”
The counseling has enabled Diana to become more even-tempered, patient and self-forgiving, she said. She has become more disciplined to curb negative behaviors that could worsen a situation. As a result, she has not been in a physical fight for more than five years. The improvements in her mental health have also made her a better parent, Diana feels.
“I’ve explained my challenges to my kids, and they understand,” Diana said. “They know that I’ll still have highs and lows, and that I do my best to cope. When I’m feeling low, they give me hugs and remind me it will get better.”
Diana’s two kids also receive counseling at Southwest Solutions. They go to the Children, Youth and Families (CYF) division at 5716 Michigan.
“I’ve seen a complete difference in both kids because of the counseling,” Diana said.
Janea started counseling two years ago. She is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and was struggling in school.
“Janea is a sweet kid, and she was shy at first in therapy, but she has progressed a lot,” said Thalia Maya, Janea’s clinician at CYF. “She’s more open and has grown over time to take more responsibility, make good choices and implement coping skills.”
To assist with Janea’s issues in school, Thalia connected Diana with the Family Alliance for Change (FAFC) program at CYF. FAFC caseworkers Debbie Martinez and Maritza Melendez worked with teachers and the principal at Janea’s school for a year to devise a “504 Plan,” which provides in-class accommodations for a student with a disability so that the student can be academically successful.
“The school was very supportive of our efforts, and Diana was deeply involved, too, so that everyone would be on the same page, at school and at home, to help Janea learn effectively,” said Debbie with FAFC.
The result has been dramatic for Janea. She has gone from nearly failing in years past to an A/B student this school year.
“My daughter loves learning now,” Diana said. “As soon as she gets home from school, she sits down and does her homework without being told. She loves to read and do creative things, too.”
Diana started counseling for her son at CYF after he was having a hard time dealing with bullying at school. His clinician is LaTanya Gater.
“Westley was being taunted at school and he’d carry the hurt inside himself without communicating,” Diana said. “As soon as he got off the bus and I’d pick him up, he would start crying and saying that he didn’t want to go back to school. He’s learned in counseling with Ms. Gater to deal with bullying and take measures to address it. He’s doing way better in school now and is pulling A’s and B’s this year.”
Westley is also making friends, doing better at home, and getting along better with his sister, Diana said. He used to feel jealous of the extra attention she received because of her ADHD. Now he helps her with her homework, particularly in math.
“I cannot say enough about how much the counseling services at Southwest Solutions have assisted our family and how grateful we are,” Diana said. “I want others to know about our story so that if they have challenges like ours, they can know that help is available.”
Anyone seeking our counseling services should contact our ACCESS and Welcome Center, which is the point of entry for all our mental health programs. To contact the ACCESS unit, call 313.841.7474 Monday through Friday, 8:30AM – 5:00PM.