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.

 

 

Moving Furniture

  Warning:  this one is from the heart, that is all I can say.

I posted before that my eldest son spent some time at Avera Behavioral last year.  I was honored to be able to work along some wonderful people there as Idid my Chaplain hours.  My life was forever changed by the people, patients, and atmosphere….I remain thankful for who they are and what they spoke into my life.–whether they knew it or not.

Every 8 weeks or so, we have to take my oldest son to his psychiatrist for a med check.  This is the first time that we are keeping with the same litany of meds since we started.  It is a roller coaster of emotion and a constant trial and error.  I hate it.  I hate the drain on time, resources, energy, and what it does to us personally.  My son seems rather unaffected….he goes in, happy as a clam and willing to tell his Dr. how he is feeling and thinking.  I am grateful for that.  I am also grateful for the Dr.  He is kind, thorough, intelligent, and responsive.  I do not like having to see him every 8 weeks.

I know that there are some out there that see hospitals and doctors every stinking day….it is not any more fair.  What I had been building in my head as of late was spoken to yesterday.  Now, there will be some that will read this and be instantly angry with me.  I guess that is ok, I cannot control that.  I am writing because this is a way to vent, and rearrange some of the furniture in my head.  My invitation are to those that do feel angry or irritated that I would post such a thing….I invite the exploration as to the anger. ‘Nuf said.

As per last conferences I skipped and danced  down the hall as I saw in black and white the progess my son has made in the last school year.  He has not leaped the 4-4.5 levels in reading—they were always there.  We are just now seeing some resolution to the hyperactivity we see.  When last year he could not even sit still long enough to take a one minute timed reading test, this year he has surpassed it and tripled his scores!  The school is seeing what we always knew to be true; we have an extremely gifted child on our hands. 

Wait….it is not just the ADD that presents an obstacle.  There is also the issue of mood swings, hyper mania, impulsivity, inappropriate conversation, and obsessive thoughts.  Of these he is plagued.  After his initial hospitalization, there was talk of Autism or Bi polar.  As time has progressed, the diagnosis for Autism has diminished as we understand the scope of some of his other challenge areas. 

I asked the Dr to speak boldly and plainly.  He did.  He asked my biological pathology.  He knows I am adopted and as of last April, I know definitively what my biological background entails.  NOTE!!!! this has nothing to do with those that adopted me!!!! This is uncovering the genetic link that may be present, and it is.  Within my family tree is mental retardation, depression, suicidal ideation, anger issues, severe developmental delays, manic depression, and PTSD.    WHAMO!@!!!!!  Note  this is not to describe me!  After many batteries of tests, I present a clean mental profile!  Isn’t that scary!

So, take that pathology and combine it with an ADD male child with an extremely high intelligence, intuitive and perceptive understanding and we have the formula for some difficult moments.  As the Dr talked yesterday and I watched my son fixate on telling the Dr that sometimes the dog likes to have sex with butts, I cringed.  NOOOOOO !  I looked at the Dr, and he confirmed what I already knew.  9 out of t10 times with a pathology such as mine and what my son brings to the table…the diagnosis Bi polar sticks.  He mentioned 90-95% of the time, with this combination, it is unlikely to avoid this type of problem.

DAMN DAMN DAMN.  Makes sense tho.  The blow ups, the changes in mood that come out of nowhere, the high levels of frustration that give way to violence and then berating himself.  I have watched it all. Damn, not my son–not anyone; but LORD, not my son!  Not my baby~

Some out there are cursing me for what I am revealing…ok.  Dear readers, I am a mom, a daughter, sister, friend, confidante, wife, master’s graduate, community leader and advocate, writer, and public speaker and none of it can take away the hurt.  None.  No matter what I achieve, how much I plow ahead and work, it will not alleviate the problem.  It will not take away the hurt I feel at a diagnosis that will likely increase as he ages and matures.  I want to solve it, take it away, and make it mine.  I can’t.  While I hold no diagnosis other than anxiety and a smattering of personal insanity…(that is a joke), it skipped the me generation and landed on my son. DAMN.  I want to find a safe place and bawl like a baby and I want someone with power and authority to tell me it’s gonna be ok– and they can’t.

I have to be the one to watch, listen, pray, and advocate on behalf of my son, and I will.  There is no other option.  However, there are moments, dear readers, when I am so tired and exhausted that I rue this motherhood gig.  There are times I am emotionally tired enough to tune out the world and sleep for a weekend….when my sense of being “on” all the time has to give way to release.  Those are the times I wish I was little and someone else called the shots for a while.  Those are the times I feel vulnerable and small….and yet I know I am always protected and seen.  Yes, that was a faith reference.

Why did I post this?  Who knows.  Will anyone respond?  I know not.  It was a comfort to hear from the Dr that there was nothing I did during my pregnancy that caused this.  There is no other blame that can be laid.  He laughed when I mentioned some of the struggle…thinking that I could have done something to cause this is just bad psychology.  As for any other physical anomalies that would trigger such a diagnosis….they don’t exist.  It is the tendency of our society to find someone or something to pin the blame to when we don’t understand a situation, and mental illness is the number 1 most stereotyped issue present.  We are talking about ADD, and autism and the spectrum of autism for young people, and we should.  The fact is, we are not talking about Bi polar and its links and this leads to isolation, loneliness, and misunderstanding.

So, there it is.  I heard it yesterday….sat with it most of the night and found a moment of quiet as I listen to the fish tank and drink my chai tea.  Be gentle with one another….carry with and for each other those burdens which we know would overwhelm….we are community, let us start to understand what that means.

Shalom,

cahl

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