Free Admission? Not so much.

I am pensive today.  The countdowns on all the television stations are in full swing and the news programs are winding down the best and worst stories of the year.  While I contemplate Occupy wherever and all the political mumbo jumbo, my thoughts turn in to something else.

This night a year ago, I admitted my oldest son to the behavioral unit at a local mental facility.  I was doing my chaplain residency hours there and had spent hours and hours working with the staff on the various floors.  I knew these people there as colleagues and this night of nights I was reduced to another parent at their wit’s end with nowhere else to turn.

The roads and grassy areas are barren without snow, a different picture to the impending blizzard we experienced 365 days ago.  I drove a borrowed 4 wheel drive vehicle and made the half hour trek with my son in the back seat.  It was not until days later that a friend commented that it was a miracle that my son stayed in control during the drive…it could have been a dangerous trip.  I didn’t even think of it as I careened down the interstate covered in ice.

We had been told by his doctor that if he happened to lose control it would be time to bring him in to calm him enough to figure out how best to help him.  I remember telling my husband this and feeling a bit belittled when he poo pooed my concern for my son’s increasing rage.  It was only after he wigged out on my husband because a DVR show did not record all the way that my husband agreed he needed help we could not give him.

I packed his bags with hardly a word and watched the  transformation in my son take place.  He went from bouncing off the walls threatening his family to happily eating pudding in the hall.  I stood, transfixed, not believing that this was happening.

Into the initial intake room we were ushered  and the questioning began.  My son climbed from the chair to the table to the floor back to the table and back again, repeatedly.  It was hard to carry on a conversation as I kept one eye on him and the other on keeping myself in check.  Within minutes of the intake interview, the doctor’s orders were to admit him.

People assume that you are automatically admitted, it is not the case.  After the  interview, the doctor has to review the information and decide if admittance is the best option.  In this case, it was.

One of my lifelong friends came to join me in this venture and brought me some strong mocha as my son and I were ushered down the hall to the children’s wing.  I had spent so many hours walking these halls, my first encounter when I did my clinical was on the children’s wing…I remember the young man’s name and it all came flooding back to me as I sat in the room waiting for the nurse on duty.  I smiled when I saw him.  He was a kind and strong nurse, capable of talking truth out of his own experience.  I tried not to look in his eyes as I looked over the paperwork.  They took my son to another room to be weighed and measured, and to have all shoes and belts and ties taken from him.  They went through his luggage to make sure he had nothing that would be harmful and they showed him his room.  The floor was quiet, all the other children had gone to bed for the night.  I signed all the necessary paperwork, sighed back a sob and put on my brave face for my son.

He was happily bouncing on the bed, the violent rage subsided.    He had his own bathroom, a sink, a desk, all the comforts of home…sure.  I placed sheets and his comforter on his bed.  His favorite stuffed animal, Mr. Rattles, and his prayer shawl were unpacked for him and he smiled as he settled down to rest.  I sat next to him and talked quietly to him.  I said prayers for him, just as I have done every night since he was born, I prayed for his dreams and then I kissed him on his forehead and headed out the door.

I was me in these moments, not chaplain or student, but mom….so I waited for the nurse on duty to walk me through the hallways and out the front entrance.  The door.  The door banged shut behind me–an ominous sound, so final, so—done.

My friend and her husband walked out with me, I could not speak…did not return to their house with them.  I got in the borrowed car, fiddled with the keys, cursed a blue streak when I could not find the lights, and sobbed my  way back home.

I continued sobbing most of that night.  I walked in the door to find my youngest in bed with his father, waiting up for mom.  I could not say anything, I just stammered down the hallway to the darkened livingroom and sat.  I could not go into my son’s room, could not touch his bed, see his pillow and blanket there without him cuddled within them.  Part of my heart and soul was in a place I could not reach and it hurt worse than anything I have ever felt in my life.  It still does.  I angrily swipe at tears that course down my cheeks even now–remembering.

That was a night of pure hell, a night where I did not sleep, could do little else but sob and wish the gods would reverse their courses.  I do not know how long I sat in my dark room, the computer was on my lap, I could not type….I sat, stone cold and hurting for a little boy who could not control what was happening and I could not fix it.  If he were in any other situation,  I would be with him, this was the one journey in which I could not join him.  I still can’t.

I have kept a running journal for both my children.  I write to them on the birthday date each month–I write about what they are doing, how they are growing, things I want to say to them or things I want them to remember.  I have yet to write to my either of my children about this.  A year later, I still cannot tell him what it was like to have him there.  Many of the saints and martyrs of the faith, male and female, describe the night I encountered as a “Dark night of the soul.”  I never understood what that meant until that evening.  As people around the world celebrated a new year, I cried rivers for a son that I could not help.  It left me feeling helpless and alone, there are times that I still feel that way when I watch him.  I fear what his future will look like, I worry that I have not done enough–have not equipped him or protected him from what he may experience.  It leaves me to rely on faith…and that is hard.

So, tonight I remain pensive and a bit pissy about nothing in particular and everything at the same time.  I choke back my own tears as I watch the kids play battleship and the dog smacks on a chewy at my feet.  I know that I will write more on this topic this weekend.  If for no other reason than to put thoughts to paper so as not to stuff them too much longer.

He is better than he was a year ago, not all the kinks out of the armor yet, but I am confident that we will be stronger even another year from now.  Mental illness does not just affect those with the diagnosis, it wreaks havoc on those watching and caring for the person.  I know of only one current diagnosis for my nearly eight year old, i watch with bated breath to see if our other suspicions will ring true.  I pray with all that I am that the cruel hands of mental illness leave my son alone…at this time that is all I can do.  Pray.

I did not write this out of pity or out of a pathetic need to blather my story all over the internet.  Those that feel compelled will read, maybe comment.  I know grandma will read and if she gets this far, a shout out to you…;-)  This weekend will prove difficult for me as I remember the road we have traveled in the last year.  If by chance something here spoke to your heart, then his journey and mine will have not been in vain.  By the way for one week admittance to this fancy hotel, one can expect to pay over 18,000 for just the bed and room.  Other amenities such as food, medicine, and doctor visits are added as deemed necessary.  With that tidbit in mind, let’s reform health care so as to benefit as many as possible…(there no more politics tonight)

Blessings to you as you wrap up 2011 and may your 2012 prove more than you ever dreamed possible.

Shalom dear readers,



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. AnnMarie
    Dec 30, 2011 @ 18:10:23



    • cindythea
      Dec 30, 2011 @ 18:16:36

      thanks annmarie, did not even know you were reading. most of the time i think i am just posting randomly in cyberland where no one really reads what i am writing….


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