I am an Addict

There is no way to sugar coat this reality.  I am a drug addict.  I am not ashamed to admit this, but am not addicted in the way you may be thinking.  I am addicted to drugs, that is the truth.

I have taken anti-depressant medications coupled with anti anxiety meds for quite some time now.  As anyone who takes medications like this will tell you, sometimes it takes a bit to get the dosage and the combination correct.  What worked months ago, may not work in the present, for whatever reason.  Constant awareness of body and mind has to  be a top priority as well as continual conversation with the doctors in charge of care.

It became clear this past fall that the meds I was on were not doing the trick.  In order to make a move to a more stable med regimen, I needed to wean off of one med in order to take another one.  There are a number of meds that cannot and should not be quit “cold turkey.”  Extreme care and caution has to be taken to make sure that there are no big time reactions.

Cymbalta is one of those meds which cannot be quit rapidly…one that has to be monitored with dosages lowered at a rate that the body can handle.  No matter how slow you go, the impacts are still there.

I had been on Cymbalta for quite some time and really had no idea how I was supposed to feel.  I felt no different than any other day.  The decision was made to do some tweaking…first I had to wean off of it.

I have never thought myself addicted to anything, not really.  I mean I like my Diet Coke, but I choose to drink that.  If I decided to stop, I could and would.  This was a a purposeful removal of something the body was using and something the mind knew it needed.  Whether it was working to its highest level is inconsequential.  The body had it, needed it, and wanted it.  To deprive the body of this would prove harder than I expected.

I was instructed to wean off at a slow pace, but was also warned that some days would be tough.  Oh my goodness.  Never have I felt more at a loss and on the edge of a dark hole than I did at that time.  I felt constantly agitated, irritable, on edge, borderline bitchy all the time.  I could hear myself saying things, thinking this was not me saying these things, and I could not stop.  I screamed in my head…STOP STOP STOP, this is not you!  Then I would feel bad for saying and doing things I could not control.  There were times I could not stop the thoughts in my head…could not tell whether I was coming or going or how I was going to feel hour-by-hour.

Physically I felt worse than I had in a long time.  My stomach ached all the time, headaches were worse than ever, nothing tasted good, I did not want to eat, could not sleep…the list was endless.  I look horrid, I acted worse.

As my body continued to release the medication and my body attempted to reset, the cravings kicked in full force.  These were not food cravings.  These were the intense desires to feel leveled out..to feel normal-at least the normal I felt when I was on the drug.  I would hold the remaining pills in the bottle, my hand shaking, willing myself not to take one….I attempted half doses….and yes.  There were times I told no one and took one to make it through.  I felt guilty and sneaky for doing so.  I hated the fact that I could feel so out of whack by the removal of one med. I was angry that my body needed it, my mind demanded it, and it felt like I was powerless to stop what I was feeling.

After the physical, the mental mess I was in was not something I anticipated.  I could not form a coherent thought and did not want to.   I wanted to scream and yell and throw every kind of temper tantrum known to man…and in some ways I did.  There were times I did not recognize the person looking back at me, I know others felt the same.  knowing that made me hate myself and how I felt even more.  I could not control it.  I craved to feel level.  So, I caved.  I gave in…then some light broke through.

I was under the watchful eyes of my doctor, her staff and nurses were incredible to me and for me.  They kept close tabs on me, asking my symptoms, let me talk some frustrations out and told me that I would get through it.  I wanted to quit many times.  I wanted to swear and tell everyone around me that I didn’t give a damn about anyone and I would say and do what I wanted.  There were times my skin itched, my mind ached, I could not tell if what I dreamt was real or hallucination….it was hell.

A couple of people finally asked what in the world was happening.  I had told no one except my dr what was happening.  I broke down and told them I was going through a med withdrawal and I could not tell when it would be over.  They looked at me with such relief and concern…I did not expect that response.  I expected them to hate me, I certainly did not like the person I was becoming.  Out of care, they asked why I had not said something before, why did I think I had to go through it alone?  Why did I possibly think that no one would care or want to help me.  Instead of making me feel small and weak, they were there to bolster me, to lend me their strength and love.  They loved me no matter how nasty I became.  In fact, they showed me more grace, knowing that what was happening was temporary.  They checked in on me, they asked questions, they did not leave me alone.  I made it through.  I could not have done it without that collective care.

Sooooo many people do not have that.  I have never been addicted to alcohol or other recreational drugs, painkillers, gambling, or other addictions.  I do not know what that feels like….but I do.  I do know what feeling deprived of something the mind and body needs to feel normal…or at least the normal I understood.  I know what it feels like to be alone, or at least feel like I am alone.  I know what it feels like to sneak around, to have almost every waking moment consumed with how I could get a hit.  What could I do….how can I get it…will anyone know if I sneak one?  Will it matter?  Maybe this is not that big a deal.  Maybe they are wrong, maybe I do need this.  How can I possibly be addicted, that happens to “those” people.

Those people, indeed.

I was sooo lucky.  I had people, when I let them in, who rallied in and around me and saw me through that time.  There are tons of people who suffer silently, never saying a word and beat themselves up for what is happening.  They continue muddling through.  Or they refuse to admit that there may be a problem, unable to take steps to remedy it.

I was so lucky.  I do not know what it looks like to battle an addiction that has been there for decades.  I  do not know how it feels to try and try again…hoping that this time it will work.  I do understand how quickly an addiction takes hold, how strongly it grips mind, body, soul.  I know what it is to feel powerless, succumbing to something stronger than myself, forgetting that I am stronger than this drug.  I do not know what it means to sacrifice everything and lose everything to keep a norm.  I am so thankful I have not had that experience.  My heart breaks in a new way for anyone wrestling with any kind of addiction…it does not matter what it is.  I know what dark and twisty feels like and I know what it means for people to pull me through.  I am lucky.

I am also lucky to know this side of me.  I am thankful to catch a glimpse of what a world encased in addiction looks like.  It is not a place I would wish on anyone.  It is not a place anyone would want to camp.  It is not a place that people hope to get to and remain, no one wants to lose control of themselves.  I think most of us would just like the chance to escape or dull a pain that exists, for whatever reason.  I think many of us wonder what it feels like to feel good…laughingly, lovingly, ridiculously good.

I do not have the answers, but my eyes are open, my mind is cleared….I understand…if only for a moment.  I will remain today and always, Addicted.

Advertisements

Hush hush

It has been 3 years since I heard the door close on a children’s behavioral unit and left my son there for assessment and diagnosis.  It was the singularly the most scared and vulnerable I have ever felt.  Even though I knew these doctor and nurses well, I had been working with them for half a year as a chaplain, I could not control what went on behind those doors.  I was powerless.

Many of us feel the same way.  The diseases and illnesses that attack us every day sometimes render us powerless.  One thought continues to plague me though.  I have watched as tons of my friends, and as I age, tons of my classmates battle the ravages of cancer….an all consuming claim on mind, body, and soul.  I watch as people I know fight and fight, and rally, and win.  God Bless them!

I have also watched as tragedy upon violent tragedy happen across the US in our public places—schools, malls, movie theatres.  The list seems endless.  I have watched as the number of people without homes increase, I ask myself why.  I watch the news as violent events happen and the first comment made is “oh, they must have some kind of mental illness”  I have watched as people will do things which people do not like.  The response is almost always, “oh, they must have some “issues””

Wait!  How come no one treats other illness as a hush hush swear word?  It’s not as though depression is on the same level as “The name which shall not be spoken”  By the way, it’s Voldemort.  See, I said it and the world did not come to a screeching halt.  Good thing!  Whew!  I thought I was a goner there!  😉

Seriously though.  I want to unpack this concept a bit.  We are so accustomed to hearing of the battles of the seeable illnesses.  As well we should.  The fight is real, it is fierce, and requires everthing of the person diagnosed.  They are not the only ones diagnosed and fighting, it permeates the whole household.  Ok.  If that is the case, let’s transfer that to the illnesses which are not as readily seen.

The rate of persons diagnosed with a mental illness is skyrocketing.  As I pen this I imagine all the instances mental illness   to the top of a list.  How many of us become agitated when the weather turns gloomy for an extended period of time?  Seasonal Affective Disorder… Do any of us suffer anxiety over speaking in public, taking tests, heights….?  Those are better known as a phobias–psychologically defined as a type of anxiety disorder.  This applies to almost every one of us..me included.

I write this as I watch my oldest son twirl a piece of hair on this forehead as he turns circles on his knees in the middle of the livingroom floor.  Reminds me of the old days with a sit and spin…..only this will go on sporadically for hours, just after he attempts to wrestle our pug—resulting in a scratch on his armpit, which will enrage him….what he will not be able to realize is that it was the wrestling with the dog which brought about the scratch in the first place.  He will not clue in to that.  I watch him everyday.  There are days I cheer as loud as I can (silently) that we have had a good day.  There are other days that I hang my head in near defeat…wondering what more I can do….what I could have possibly done…..if there was a way I could take this from him.  I can’t.  I have my own to manage…..

The frustration, if you will, is when horrible things happen (and they are horrible) and we jump to a conclusion of a mental illness which HAS to explain the whole situation.  Wow!  I was not aware we could do that unless all of the research has proven without a shadow of a doubt, that a mental illness is the sole reason.

Take ADHD.  My son is diagnosed with this.  If you do not believe me, spend a weekend with him without his medicine.  You will be exhausted after 2 hours….guaranteed!

I live and love for this kiddo with all that I am.  He drives me nuts…or rather his illness does.  I can never determine what will set him off in a flurry of activity….I rue the days (many of them) where he is up at the crack of dawn, running around the house screaming because he has too much energy and he does not know what to do.  Mornings are hell.  I do not say that lightly.  His ability to transition and focus his energy makes organization difficult.  Mom does much behind the scenes to smooth over anticipated rough spots and tells no one the worry she holds as report cards or conferences happen each school year.  I cringe when I wonder about his friends at school. Some understand him, embrace him, others claim he is odd and weird, and wash their hands of him.  I cannot control that.  Nor can I control the unspoken hurt I see in his eyes when his younger brother is invited to outings with his own friends…and he is not.  Mom again does much behind the scenes to set up play dates so the situation is a bit easier.

Take the family who struggles with Autism.  The hurt, the frustration, the fatigue, the vigilant watch for a change in communication.  I have watched families lock arms and walk boldly into what that diagnosis means.  One of the awful realities is that often families feel like they have no one to turn to.

The isolation, hurt, frustration, the hope and strength it takes to move forward is incredible.

Ask any of those famillies…ask me if I ever believed that my son would ever hurt anyone—illness or not. When we cannot find an immediate answer to a tragedy, it seems unfair to pin it on one of any number of “explanations.”  Reminds me of the lyrics from “Kill the Beast” in Beauty in the Beast.  “We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us.  So, kill the beast.”

I think back on that night 3 years ago and the heartache I felt as I left that hospital.  I watch the facebook posts of fellow parents, some I have met, some I have not, who are bravely walking in worlds which have no road maps.  There is not an easy solution, not a course of meds or surgery which can work in tandem bringing about an end or remission from something.  It is there….everyday no matter the day, holiday, or special event.  What surprises me is how few support methods are available for those in the midst of walking in these worlds of mental illness.

Sit down with a parent of an autistic child, a child with ADHD, bi polar, depression…the list grows.  Sit down with a family of an alzheimer’s relative.  Ask them how they feel watching and waiting, hoping and praying.  Ask them the questions, hear the answers.  Ask those who can articulate what having that illness means…ask them about their world…what does it look like, feel?  What do they hear?

The double diagnosis my son has scares the heck out of me every time I go back to a med check.  In a giggle the psych dr told me last time, “we knew he was one in a million….he is just that.  Every time we think we have it explained, he throws us another curve ball.  He will rival every box we try to put him in, he will never fit a true diagnosis.”   That is great and scary at the same time.  My son is one in a million….yes, yes he is.  There are times, like right now…when I wish he would fit neatly into textbook diagnosis.  It would provide answers and a more complete path of treatment.

For now, we move ahead, thankful that so far we have only had 1 hospital visit in 3 years.  If there need be more, I will not hesitate.  I will never stop advocating for him and others with mental illness.  I will never stop looking for ways for families to seek comfort and strength from one another and others shouldering the same burdens.  I will never stop, in the non-profit in which i work, look for options for those with diagnosed illness to find other options of walking through their illness.  What about the impact of a teaching garden to reduce stress and anxiety—re-focusing energy or providing hands on work which aids communication and learning?

I write each year around this time to honor him….my son, the light of my life–one of 2 reasons I am a better person.

shalom,

With all the HYPE…

The Conneticut tragedy is still not far from my mind, I have read the account in the book, Columbine, and the area of mental health fascinates me.  If I could ever pass statistics, I would consider another Master’s in Psych or a focus in mental health for a PhD.  It’s that math thing that trips me up every time.  ANYWAY!!!

This day of all days has special significance for me.  It is  day which will be forever etched in the recesses of my mind, sometimes I take it out, look at it and feel immense guilt.  Other times I look at it from afar and wonder how in the world I made it through that time, still others I am thankful to observe from a more detached place where we were then and where we are now- 2 years later.

Lots of people are talking about the impacts of mental health and the need for more research and conversation surrounding these issues.  I would agree, but I would offer a word of caution as well.  Having a mental illness does not pre-determine an individual to violent behavior anymore than a person with heart disease or diabetes does.  It is something that needs to be recognized, honored, and treated.  Note that I included the word honored, here.  Just as we honor people with any disability or injury…or scratch that..We honor people simply because that is what they are, PEOPLE.  We honor one another  because it is part of human nature–because we MUST.

2 years ago I admitted my son to a psych floor at a local mental hospital.  It was the hardest moment of my life and I have written about it before–the sound of the locked door shutting….the feel of my keys in my hand that I could not use to save him.  I worked there at the time as a Chaplain and there was nothing I could do to rescue him, it was not my place to rescue him and I still can’t.

Many will continue to talk in the coming weeks and months about mental illness, touting solutions, pretending that they have the “answers” to the situation.  There is not one solution…and the problem of mental illness is such a personal and humbling realization.  Simply throwing money at it will not solve, banning individuals from certain rights with mental illness will not solve it, there is no blanket solution.  The sooner we understand that, the better strides we will be making in understanding and equipping one another to honor people with them.

confession:  my son has 2 mental diagnosis.  I also have propensity for a couple of them.  I have some PTSD from situations in my past, I possess a tendency toward anxiety and dysthymia as well as some Season Affective Disorder, I may also dabble in the ADHD realm.  All of these are interrelated and are linked to issues that go beyond what people think could or should be a blanket response.  Simply throwing medication at any of them will not solve the problem on its own.  It is a day in, day out understanding of who I am, who my son is and responding with grace and honor to who we are.  I am old enough to know and can tell when situations may be getting out of hand, and there are times when my medication has not been what it should have been.  There are times that I tried to go off my meds only to realize that I feel better, and am a better Me with my medication.  Thankfully I have had insurance the whole time, which has afforded me the chance to stay on meds.  But, throwing one medication or a cocktail approach does not warrant the only mode of treatment.

Do you know what it is like to live in what feels like a hole that continues to drop lower and lower, the bottom of which you cannot see or feel, but you know is there?  The hole sometimes closes in, making you feel suffocated and larger than life at the same time.  Sometimes it is so engulfing you think it may swallow you whole and take over your whole existence–you feel small and insignificant–and sometimes like the backpack you are carrying is so heavy you cannot take another step forward.  The weight of its contents so overwhelming it causes you to collapse under it right where you are–stuck.

There are moments of wonder and awe, when things are leveled and you feel good.  There are also moments of deep despair, confusion and frustration.  I have watched my son go from being a happy camper to someone who is so filled with anger that I do not know what to do.  I have witnessed him wake in the morning and go tearing through the house like the Energizer Bunny on  crack, and I am exhausted by it.  Do not get me wrong, he is a wonderful and loving boy…but he also drives me to tears in the wee hours of the night, when I lie awake and worry about his future.  Note that I have anxiety, so the guilt and worry factor is high here.

I worry about his classwork, his organization, his social standing in school.  I worry about how he feels about himself.  You see, he has not had a past of abuse or neglect, but he will claim that he hates himself and his life.  There is no reason for his lack of confidence in himself…he is loved, cherished, and encouraged to be the individual he is.  It is something in the brain that screws with his perceptions and the world around him. There is nothing wrong with him as a person and he is not predestined to a life of crime or a danger to society.  The most damage he will do will be to himself, in his own mind, to his own body, or to the 1 other person whom he trusts more than life itself….mom.

Each day is a lesson in learning about my son, the external stimuli, and his reaction to them.  I have to juggle his BIG personality and intelligence with tolerance to what his mind and body say he needs.  I also have another son who does not exhibit the same personality or mental illnesses…but is just as intelligent and capable.  I have to balance interacting with both of my sons, knowing that they are both individuals and the way I parent one is not the way I can parent the other.  It is a daily exercise in patience, which I lack in major degrees.

It takes a toll on every aspect of family life.  It strains marriages and consumes my thoughts, and I am guilty to paying more attention to my children than to myself and relationships that I have in my life.  It confuses grandparents who don’t see the effects of it everyday…who wonder why the need for meds and their desire to solve the problem motivates them to search for answers that are not readily available.  In their quest to love on their grandkids, they comment and grasp at straws…and those of us who deal with it 24-7 sit and watch and….hurt.  It may claim my marriage, it may not…..it remains to be seen how we weather the impact.  Statistics are not in favor for families who deal with any child with any level of disability.  It takes an immense amount of effort and the pressure is extreme.  I do not say that for a sympathy vote, I say  that as fact.

What is really needed is support and encouragement.  I want to   know as a person who takes medicine for a mental illness, that I am not alone.  I want to know that I have worth and importance as much as anyone else.  My affliction may not require I wear a brace, take my blood sugar, or spend my days in a wheel chair, but it is something which I must pay attention to each day.  I want to know that there are people out there who understand what it means to deal with it on their own, personally.  I want to know that there are people I can talk to who have children who wrestle with this…I want to know that I am not a bad parent with people waiting to sit in judgment of me and my family.  I want to breathe…large and long. I want to feel empowered and the know that the “it takes a village” idea actually works.  I want to use my knowledge to help others and to glean from them when I need it. Above all, my son and I want to feel NOT ALONE.

I think that is all I have at this time…my sons are now fighting over their individual bags of reese’s pieces and requesting I play Gangnam Style for the billionth time.  Excuse me while I go tear my hair out and run screaming from the building….aaaaahhhhh

Shalom dear ones,

cahl.

 

 

Another Mother;’s Response

I have read the ” I am Adam’s _________Mother” article and I am shaken to the core.  It hits me in a place that I cannot fully describe to many people, it makes me hurt, because on some levels she is describing my oldest son.  Some will read this and comment that my son is not capable of such behavior, he would never talk to anyone in those voices or threaten another human being.  If you believe that, I invite you to journey with us for a day or two, or talk to our closest neighbors, who he plays with on almost a daily basis.

while I have read the account, I relate, but I also caution us to take what is happening with a grain of salt.  To pin this type of madness on a presumed mental illness is dangerous and uneducated–the truth is, it is hearsay.  We don’t know the motive, the life he was living, nor the depth of his personal pain.  We are too quick to jump at what may seem  as easy conclusions because the reality of the situation is too heavy for us to bear.  We should not have to bear such horrendous acts, we should not grieve at the senseless killing of children, but more importantly, we should be crying out for the senseless killing of anyone–not just children.

Where is our outrage when gangs are killing in the streets, or hours from where I live the suicide and addiction rates are some of the highest in the nation, with a poverty rate the lowest in the US?  Where is our outrage when first and second grade students “quit school” and sit more time in the principal’s office instead of the classroom because most of the male figures in their lives are already in prison and they are just waiting their turn?  Where is our outrage when we use words as swords to lash out at each other, demeaning how we live, and love? Where, oh where, is our compassion?

Where is our compassion when we allow people to slander one another in the name of anything because it elevates their own position or opinion?  Where is the understanding that we are each as different and unique as each snow flake that falls each winter.  I am from the midwest people, and them’s a lot of snow flakes from many many winters.  I am as different from you as you are from me and we are as unique as every one of those snowflakes ever made.  That baffles my mind to even imagine!  I celebrate that difference…hell, I rejoice in it!

My oldest son has a double diagnosis, a double mental illness…and I hope and pray through every day with him.  He is not a madman waiting in the wings, he is a little boy with an abundant zest for life, too much intelligence, and a spiritual understanding that astounds me.  He can also lose it, big time.  He has a diagnosis, but more than that, he has a name and a life that I want to be full of hope and promise and light and love.  He has a name and an identity and a sparkling personality which he uses to drive me up the wall quicker than any human being…and I love him for it.  He worries me, causes me to fret and stew, to tear my hair out, to walk around with my heart outside my body—and so does his brother–and I love them for who they are.  His intelligence will not dictate his actions, his moral character and spiritual grounding ( or lack thereof) will spell out his future.  As a parent, I have to pour everything I can into both of them and believe that I, and others that I have trusted to care for them, have instilled the right and proper and strengthening ideals into them.  I have to watch them walk out into the big world everyday and relinquish them into someone else’s control….whether that someone is a school, a job, a loved one, or someone aiming to harm them.  I have to trust that I have done my job as a parent and that means trusting myself to let them go….and to admit that in the end, they are not really mine.  OUCH!!!! That hurts, doesn’t it.  My boys are not really mine.  They are on loan to me and I am the blessed one charged to their care for this time and this place and in this moment.  There will come a time when I am asked to allow them to continue in their journeys, and like every parent, I pray it is never within my lifetime that I am asked to give them up to something bigger than me.  They are gifts for this time and this moment, I struggle to remember that, because I want to believe that they are solely mine.

The reality?  Yes, I have seen my son wig out…I have seen him beg me to get a gun and kill him, I have been the butt of his threats and his violent anger…and I have held him, cradled him, and sang him to rest time and again.  I would do that for anyone.  I would do that for anyone because I know that anyone of us could lose it at any moment.  That is right…Any one of us could lose it at any time!  Think back to stories we hear of babies being shaken and we are shocked when it happens….horrible, yes!  Put yourself in the position of that person who has had that child screaming for hours on end, already tired, worn out, and nothing they do helps alleviate the screaming…..Understandable how a person can be pushed to their limits?????

When we put it in perspective it is not hard to imagine a person pushed to the edge…we are one thread away from it.  THANKFuLLY, there is compassion, common sense, and love that covers us most of the time.  Let’s walk carefully the lines of blame we draw, lest we wrongly paint a whole faction of people who struggle with learning disabilities, mental illness, or any other politically correct label we want to use as violent and deviant.  The fact is, we are all violent and deviant in our own ways…..ever flipped someone off who cut in front of you?  I have.  Ever swore under your breath when you see the cop lights flashing behind you?  I have–out loud.  Ever said something so awful to someone you love in the heat of hurt, anger, betrayal, and injustice?  I have and I have had people do that to me.  Ever wanted to hit someone so hard that they did not know what was coming at them?  I have and hated myself for it later.

Have you ever had someone apologize for a wrong they had done to you?  Has grace come knocking and shown you mercy and forgiveness even when you knew you did nothing to deserve it?  How about love?  Has someone poured their life into yours, knocking down your barriers and your walls to see the ragged soul you carry and loved you in spite of your messy self? I hope so.  I hope you have been loved with a fierceness that takes your breath away and that you can extend that to others.  i hope you know what it means to be pursued in a way that makes you feel wanted and needed and important because you are you and no one else.  I hope you know what it feels like to pursue someone else in that fashion…I hope that you know yourself as a beautiful and necessary human being deserving to be seen, heard, and loved every day of your life and for eternity.

What happened Friday is beyond tragic and has dominated much of my thinking the last couple of days, but it has also served as motivation.  I am beginning to uncover my own areas of outrage at things happening all around me and I see an obligation to stand in the midst of it and be light.  I feel a call to cast light into the darkness, reveal the truth, and walk doggedly into it with wisdom and compassion.  I hope I am smart enough not to go alone….I pray I am not walking alone.

My son has a couple of mental illnesses….but more than anything, he is my son, the first-born to 2 parents who love him, sacrifice for him daily, and would walk through fire to protect him.  He is part of my body, my soul, and my heart walking around out there for the world to see.  He is one of 2 of the best things I have ever done….when you see him, love him for me–protect him and keep him safe when I cannot.  I am counting on you to be the light just as you can count on me.  Can we count on each other?

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,

cahl

%d bloggers like this: