SOAPBOX: How therapy helped mom and child through big life changes

By KJZZ News
Published: Friday, March 31, 2023 - 1:12pm

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On KJZZ's SOAPBOX, The Show turns over the the mic to listeners. For spring 2023, The Show collaborated with Rising Youth Theatre, a Phoenix-based, youth-centered arts organization. The result is a series of conversations between family members and friends on one of the toughest topics around: mental health. 

Mel and Peggy Oomens
The Oomens family
Mel (left) and Peggy Oomens

Mel Oomens is 25, and their mother, Peggy, is in her 50s. The two talk about how their relationship and the way they discuss mental health changed as Mel transitioned into adulthood.

PEGGY OOMENS: Hi, I'm Peggy Oomens, and Mel is my offspring.

MEL OOMENS: And I’m Mel Oomens and Peggy is my mom.

PEGGY: I went through divorce when Mel was about 6, and I wanted to make sure that it wasn't, didn't have as negative an effect as it could have. So we went to a therapist. And then when Mel got a little bit older, during the teen years, it was really difficult for me to tell the difference between regular teen drama and whether there was a really serious mental health issue.

MEL: Yeah, and I was going through some stuff, like, I definitely had some pretty bad anxiety, and I was going through a depressive stage. And once I was around 15-16, I asked my mom if I could go see my therapist again. Because I didn't feel like I could talk to my parents. And I went to see her. It didn't really help because she was a child psychologist, but I knew that once I, like, went off to college and everything I would still have access and the ability to find a good therapist and talk to them.

PEGGY: So in college, did you use that?

MEL: Oh, yeah, like, there was a counseling class for those in the master's program, and they would have 10 sessions. 10 people would get free therapy. Like, it's great. And I utilized that for three semesters.

PEGGY: I noticed that when you were older, it was easier to talk with you a little more openly about things.

MEL: Yeah, but even in college, it wasn't great, because I kept hiding those things from you because it was long distance. It was difficult to have those kinds of conversations with you over the phone. But after a few breakdowns on my part and a lot of supportive talks on your part, we figured out a way to communicate better and just make it happen.

PEGGY: And now that we live together again it is a lot easier.

MEL: Oh for sure.

PEGGY: And physical hugs go a long way. Although sometimes our conversations can get a little difficult. I mean, even talking about depression, because I did go through a depressive episode around the time of the divorce, and it wasn't something that I wanted you to be aware of when you're little, you know, it is a little hard to open up.

MEL: Yeah. And I feel like we also went through, both of us, overcoming the stigma because you came with a Catholic family, like, kind of rural upbringing. I'm sure mental health wasn't talked about a lot.

PEGGY: Right.

MEL: So yeah, we both had to do some learning there. I think we build each other up and kind of have those hard conversations, but it makes us better.

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