Thursday, April 28, 2005

11# Rolling Waters

I should have woke up the next day feeling great - after all I had made progress the day before and my son had seemed better - but for some reason that Sunday I arose flat - I felt drained and useless - I felt ashamed, but I really didn't want to go back to the hospital - of course, I made myself get ready - and as I showered I cried - but this time they were selfish tears - I wept for myself, for a life that had been torn assunder, all the usual daily tasks thrown to the wind. Some Sunday's I did get up and go to church - most Sunday's I fixed a big meal and spent the day resting and grading papers, preparing for the week ahead - perhaps of all other days of the week it was Sunday that was the most predictable for me - and so I suppose that is why I felt so down -and it was still raining - the downpour had decreased to a drizzle - but that did not nothing to alleviate the gloom outside or in my soul - My mom drove me up again and no doubt noticing my depression she tried to bring me back up - she is the best at bringing a positive viewpoint - at being that light in the dark - but perhaps I needed for one day just to let myself feel miserable for myself, for my changed life and my awareness of a new crushing responsiblity that would descend upon me the day my son walked out of that ward. I tried to put on a false cheery face during the visit so I wouldn't bring my son down and it did seem to work - he was very entranced with the new medicine rispardal and how it made him dream strange dreams - dreams that he couldn't quite seperate from real memory - I suggested that perhaps they should increase the dose again - it seemed somewhat dangerous to not be able to sort out in one's mind what is a dream and what is real. Numb and distant, I managed to get through - I hugged him at the end - almost breaking down - this was so unfair for him - for me - for everyone - why was it that my son was in a psychiatric ward - I must have failed - I held him tight and in my mind whispered "I'm sorry" - In a daze I walked to the car - "No, I didn't want to go in anywhere to eat" On the way home my tears dribbled out like the rain drizzled outside - I didn't have energy for a downpour. The rivers were going down a bit, but were still flooded - as we drove over one - I stared at the rolling, nuddy water and had the strange sensation of falling, of cold water pulling me ever on, drowning my sorrows and pain - so easy it would be - just to let go. For the first time I understood in a way my son's decision that night - some pain is unbearable - it can seem much easier to let life slide away and fall into those drowning, rolling waters. To be cont.

Monday, April 25, 2005

10# Connection!

We went shopping between the visiting hours for my son some new bedding - my plan was to spruce up his room before he got home to further cheer him up and hopefully help him start fresh - we found him a nice duvet set and sheets in black red and gray to match his favorite possession, his i-pod. After picking him up another huge dinner I went in for the evening visit - he wasn't waiting so I walked to his room - he was meeting one of the staff members and although I felt a bit guilty I couldn't help pausing outside for a moment - my son was explaining that he had been working in his book and that the risperdal did seem to be working but that he had heard a strange conversation while taking a shower - the conversation consisted of two men discussing the fact that another man had fallen off a ship - the staff member did not comment and feeling worse now for evesdropping I went to sit down in the lounge till the man came out - my son seemed very happy to see me and the massive amount of Mexican food, his favorite - I asked casually how the rest of his day had been and he surprised me in two ways - first he repeated the story about the voices - I assured him that when they increased the dose of risperdal, which they were going to do that evening the voices would probably go away - of course I was winging it here - this was all new territory - then he showed me the journal - in it he had added a poem to match mine - of all the literature and poetry I have read and treasured through my life this simple poem was more beautiful to me than it all - for it represented a connection back to my son - in it he spoke of the pain of being stuck in the hospital and how he wanted to be back with home with his family and friends and most importantly how he knew that I was there for him - I tried to hold back the tears - this time from happiness and the rest of the visit went well. To Be Cont.

Friday, April 22, 2005

9# Just Before Dawn

The next morning I awoke shaky, weak, and determined. I thought about my son's words the night before "this is my life now" - though I could not, would not let myself believe the hopelessness of that phrase I did know that life as we had known it had changed forever. Instead of spending the rest of my time crying and in despair I had to find a way to cope and to improve the situation the best I could. I had to somehow find a way to connect with my son, to comfort him and let him know that my love had never wavered - I remembered finding among his things, not only copied lyrics, but also what appeared to be his own verse. Since I had always used writing myself as a way to release and deal with emotions - I decided to purchase my son a journal - I would begin the first entry with a poem of my own and hopefully he would respond in turn. It was Saturday so there were two seperate visiting hours. My mom drove up - I ran into Wallmarts for a journal. The following is the poem that I wrote on that first page.
When darkness comes
And all seems lost
Find the glimmer
In the void - I am there

When swirling waters
Pull you down - down
Look for the hand
To pull you up - I am there

When demons circle
And grasp your soul
Rememeber a mother's love
Will never end - I am there
When I got to the hospital my son was in a better mood - he did complain about going to group sessions, but he had met a girl who he liked talking to and he was very happy with the large meal I had brought - his appetite seemed to be enormous and they explained that they had started him on risperdal, an antipsychotic, and one of the usual side effects was increased appetite - at the end of the visit I brought out the journal and in a non pressured way suggested that perhaps he would like to write some of his thoughts down - he nodded in a noncommital manner and it was time to leave till evening - I gave him a hug and this time he hugged back, holding on for a long moment; "I love you mom" he whispered - those simple words were like the sun rising after a particularily dark night - I left in the lightest mood that I had been in all week -To be cont.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

8# Let it Be

On the way home the rain seemed to come down even harder. Water rushed against the car, now more of a boat. I attempted to get myself together - but it was as if all the stress and pain up to that point was gushing out with as much force as the rain slashing against the windshield. My girls tried to cheer me up -they used my son's ipod, which he was not allowed to have in the hospital to play songs to lighten the mood - nothing helped. Then they clicked on the Beatle's "Let it Be" - I've never been a huge fan, but something about that song spoke to me that night - The words that Mary spoke when faced with the tremendous responsiblility of carrying God's son in a strange way comforted me - the great responsiblity of dealing with a mentally ill child was not my decision - but I too could say or sing in this case "Let it Be" and bow to God's will - I had the girls play that song over and over and although I was still crying when we arrived home, my tears had decreased to a mere trickle - That night before crawling exhausted into bed, I got on my knees to pray - I let out all the immense grief that I could not overcome and I prayed for my poor son who I knew suffered even more than me - "Please God let me take on his pain. Please take it away from him - cripple me - humble me -destroy me if you must - just please, Oh Lord take away the terrible darkness on his soul!" I prayed as I never had before from the very depths of who I was as a human, as a mother and I meant every word. To be cont.

Friday, April 15, 2005

7# The Darkest Hour

That evening my two daughters and myself started out for the hospital - the journey began to seem almost biblical, for the unusually heavy January rain had continued - it felt like the sky had opened up to weep with me. Many rivers and small streams were flooding - the highway had become like the bridges to the Keys, just a ribbon of land between lapping flood waters. We had to detour several times due to road closings and after picking up my son's request for Wendy's we were running quite late - visiting hours only lasted a couple of hours so I was worried that he would be waiting impatiantly - he was near the door when we came in - following him into his room I, for the first time noticed the lack of privacy - all the rooms were open to a common room - no doors - which of course, I reminded myself made sense - they did, after all have to monitor the patient's every move - I had moderate hope that the visit would go well as my son gulped down his food and then started to describe some of the things he had done that day - but things went down hill from there - he suddenly sounded to me like the twelve year old perfect student he had once been - so eager to please - "this is my workbook I fill out in group" - he handed it around for our perusal - the situation became bizarre to me as I looked at the list of his possible diagnosis - a long list - he laughed "I have more on that list than any one else in the group" the last word caught and within a second he had collapsed on the bed - curling up in fetal position he began to sob - a sob that seemed full of all humanities' pain and despair. I have known parents who have lost a child - brothers and sisters who have lost a sibling - yet I had never heard anything that compared with those hopeless sobs. "So this is my life now" he said as he tried unsuccessfully to get himself together - I exchanged glances of complete shock and uncertainty with my daughters. Ironically although I had carried the child on the bed in my womb seventeen years before, I had no idea how to comfort him - but I tried. I sat down and tentatively put my arm around him - it did stop his sobs but not in the way I had imagined - he straightened up and went rather rigid, pulling away "it's your fault I'm here Mom - you should have let me die." What do you say to something like that? - I can't remeber my exact words - something about how I loved him so - and then I mumbled on about how everything is meant to be - he stood up and said, "well it's about time you go - I'll walk you to the door" -our visit had only lasted a half hour. We then exchanged pleasantries as if with a stranger and we walked back out into the pouring rain. To be cont.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Great Website

I did want to again interrupt the narrative to suggest a great website The site's main focus is bipolar disorder in children and teens, but the information and the support groups and chat can be a help to any parent dealing with their child's mental illness, whether the diagnosis is bipolar or not. I have signed up for one of the support groups and have found the comfort and wisdom an instant help.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

6# Into a Well of Darkness

The next day I awoke with every intention of being positive - I realized that I couldn't help my son if I did not work on my own emotional health - but knowing and doing are two different things. I went into his room to clean - so he could get a fresh start when he got home and also to search for clues - hints of what nightmare led me to this day. I found more clues than I could handle - a poem he wrote the night of the attempt about darkness, death and hopelessness. In his passbooks from school I read a trail of breadcrumbs into madness - a year before the only entries were about schoolwork or girls - he even answered most of the interesting fact questions at the bottom of the pages - but then bit by bit disturbing images and dark song lyrics began to arise - tons of allusions to every drug under the sun and to insanity and death. I fell apart again - my good attention drained out as I sat on my son's floor. My mother called about then and hearing despair in my voice tried to comfort, to encourage - she told me that I needed to be a light in the darkness - that my son was living in total darkness right now and that I was his only hope for light - that light always overcome darkness and that I must pick myself up again. Somehow I did get off that floor - I didn't get much cleaning done - but I did get in the shower and get ready to travel to the hospital - wringing light out of the deepest part of my soul - hoping it would be enough to fight the darkness I knew I would be facing. To Be Cont.

Friday, April 08, 2005

5# Who Is This Boy?

The next day I again made the trip to the hospital in a mental fog. Worn out physically and emotionally I had to keep telling myself that I could stay strong - that I had to for my son. I didn't take my husband, who was emotionally a wreck from the recent deaths of first his brother and then his nephew - I knew that he would break down and that is not what my son needed. And so my mom drove me - I didn't feel competant just them to drive so far. I will never forget the moment I first walked into that ward. My son met me at the desk with a forced grin, but I didn't know him - that sounds terrible, but although the boy in front of was my son physically - he didn't seem in any other way to be the son I had known for almost seventeen years. His eyes had a vacant, yet haunted look, like the eyes of a wild animal in a closed cage. He began to mutter immediately "Mom get me out of here - I don't belong here - I'm going crazy in here." His voice was low, but somehow forceful - it carried threats of unknown horrors. I tried to comfort telling him that it would only be for a little while and this was where he would get the help he needed. He continued to smile - but his eyes didn't change - my beloved son was nowhere to be seen. Then came the meeting with the social worker - I ended up - despite my best intentions - crying again - I kept repeating "but he was the best of sons, how could this happen?" Intellectually I knew of course that mental illness can strike anyone - that intelligence, a loving family, good friends can not protect you. But still it seemed unreal - in my mind I kept seeing the straight A, quiet, caring perfectionist - it was as if I couldn't except that the wild eyed disturbed boy was truly my own son. After speaking alone for a while the counciler brought in that wild eyed boy and I learned that I hadn't even begun to understand the real terror of that he and now I was dealing with - he told of voices - of a voice commanding him to do things that he knew was wrong - that commanded him to kill himself because he was worthless. My illusion of a deep depression, which could be overcome, began to fade - I became physicall ill - sick at my stomauch and weak - I wanted to run out of there into the sane world outside and never come back . Before I left that day the wild eyed boy told me "Mom, I mean it, get me out - or I'll find a way to kill myself" - I walked out in a fractured haze half believeing that when I got home my real son would be there playing video games and this would have been only a terrible dream ... To be cont.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Another great site

I found another great website with both general information, lists of resources and even pamphlets and information pages that you can order for free - is a government site that covers a broad range of mental health topics. Besides basic facts, statistics,etc. there is a lot of information about the rights of the mentally ill and services that are available. A plus is also the extensive list of we links.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

4# Where No Light Can Shine

For anyone who has never had a child in a psychiantric ward - it cannot be truly imagined - when we arrived that first night I had been awake for more than thirty six hours and my mind and thought was scattered in the storm that we drove through to get there - It was raining as it would in a summer downpour, but it was January in the Midwest and the rain didn't stop. Somewhere in the night it seemed that my soul had merged with the rain and I poured and poured out - perhaps there would be no ending. The nurse who helped me fill out the paperwork brought me out of my numbness a bit - as she spoke about rules and regulations - of all the items I couldn't bring my son because he could find a way to kill heimself with them - some of the stark reality began to seep in and I broke down and cried and though I was ashamed I couldn't stop - the nurse understood - I'm sure she had seen it many times before.
One of the hardest things I have ever done was leave him there that night - all I wanted to do was lay down and hold him in my arms, cradle him as I did when he was a baby - but I had to walk away and abandon him to that alien place - so different from the normal world at home that now appeared just a dream. To be Cont.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Just a note

Though right now I'm focusing on telling our story - I do want to interrupt to mention things that come up that I hope will help other parents - I have added a link,, which I found to be a most comprehensive site about the disease - it is loaded with information on details about the illness - advice for family members and has an extensive list of further resources

3# All the world turned upside down

I've never been an insomniac - in fact its rare that I make it past 10:30 - yet after the kids went to bed the night of January 4th - I just could not settle in to sleep - something kept nagging at my mind - and my mind turned back to my son's goodnight - something seemed wrong. I finally gave up on sleep and went down to work on the computer, which is outside my son's room. I tried to work on the next days' lecture, but I couldn't concentrate - at last feeling a bit foolish to be checking on my sixteen year as I did when he was two, I went into his room - just to check - and there on the table was a notebook with a suicide note - picking it up I still could not really believe it - not our son - why? - But quickly adrenalin and panic set in and hurrying to his bed I pulled my lethargic son up - already falling into a drugged confusion he kept repeating "just let me go to sleep, let me go to sleep"
The rest of the night is a blur in my memory - the rush into the hospital - the doctor's questions - the lights that seemed so bright - shining glaringly on our tragedy - on what I was beginning to feel was my failure in motherhood - the stomauch pump - the moment where intensive care was considered - and the numbness creeping in as we waited for someone else's decisions about what was next - doctors and social workers - whispers of illnesses I only knew by name - and then the news came - our son needed to be in a psychiatric ward - but there were only two for adolescents in out state both two hours away - and so we chose and the new world - a world turned upside down began. To be cont...

Monday, April 04, 2005

2# A bit about our story

Eight months ago I, as so many of whom fate is about to crash down upon, was oblivious to any coming tragedy, going about my busy life as a mother of four, ages 21, 16, 14 and 12, working as a part time college instructor at the local university, and occasionally working on my dream of become a writer. Oh! how innocent I was to true suffering. I never suspected that my shining star of a son was slowly falling into the depths of madness. A straight A student, who most years had perfect attendance, he had never once been in trouble at school. Compared to his more outgoing siblings, he was a quiet and subdued child. who prefered reading books to playing sports. He had tried out a couple of times for the basketball team, but didn't make it. Knowing, I thought his nature, I didn't think it had bothered him that much. And then it seems bits by bits things began to change. Looking back now I can see all the signs that I missed, but when you are in the middle of living a busy life, things slip by. My straight A junior began to get into some trouble. I caught him drinking in the summer and then smoking marijuana. Coming from the end of the hippie age and no innocent myself, I thought it was just a stage. After all, I reasoned, everyone needs to sow their wild oats. When things began to really get out of hand, we began punishing my son, grounding him, taking away his car, etc. He began to become someone I didn't know, agitated, angry, anxious. He finally told me that the reason that he was drinking was because he thought everyone was looking at him when he went out, and that he had started to have anxiety attacks. I took him to our family doctor who prescribed Zoloft - and he asked the question of the times "have you ever thought of hurting yourself or commiting suicide?" My son said no. Things improved for awhile, and then seemed to take a dire turn. He got suspended from school for drinking at a ballgame - it killed his grades and all his dreams of being the valdictorian. He said he didn't care - but deep down he did - he began to pull away from his friends - when I pressed him about it he said his anxiety had gotten worse. I took him back to the family doctor. He gave him Klonopin. It was Christmas and my son seemed happy - but later I realized that I was so busy I missed many signs - his smiles were a mask of the pain he felt inside. On January 4th 2005, his sister's 15th birthday he took his whole bottle of Kolonopin and anything else he could find in the cabinet, came and hugged us goodnight, said he loved us, and went to bed to die. If it wasn't for mother's intuition, or divine intervention, my son would have succeeded. To be con.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

1# And so we Begin

When lost in a sea of doubt, grief, and pain, the distance to a safe port can seem insurmountalbe. To a parent of a mentally ill child, particularily if the illness came on suddenly - it can feel like the doomed Titanic voyage. One moment you're in the world of comfortable normalcy - the next you are flailing in an unfathomable sea of uncertainty. The trip back to solid ground can be long and painful, and some never return. This is the story of my continueing struggle to reach that safe port.