Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tragedy and Fear

The prognosis for my child, coming from his therapists and doctors, is not good.  Words like "sociopath" and "antisocial" are being tossed around with increasing frequency.  Discussions about how "we may not be able to keep him here" are being broached, because he is so incredibly disruptive and provoking to his peers he is interfering with their treatment.  

I remember exactly when I found out he had been having homicidal fantasies.  It was about a month after I found out he had been playing with razor blades and knives while we all were sleeping.  I was sitting in a staff meeting—a meeting that includes everyone who works with him at the facility—and somebody mentioned it, as though I already knew this.  As though I was already aware and had calmly accepted the fact that this mental illness that pervades him had taken him to this dark place.  That I had given a nod and accepted defeat.

In the light of the shootings in Newtown Connecticut, I have lived in a combination of fear, denial, anger, and abject grief and sadness.  Like much of the nation, I cannot begin to imagine how sick an individual would have to be to shoot a class of kindergartners, many of them multiple times.  But from my perspective, any individual who would do such a thing—Dylan Kliebold, Eric Harris, the Aurora shooter—must be mentally ill.  There should have been safeguards in place.  Somebody should have been able to say, "There's something not right."  Or the suspects themselves should have been able to reach out and receive mental health services that were not bogged down with red tape.

My anger stems from my own experiences—two years of beating my head bloody against a thick wall of red tape to get a sick child help—who went from anxiety, depression, and mild self-harm to suicidal and homicidal fantasies that included killing his family.  It is exceptionally easy for me to see myself and my son in this same position ten years from now.  Especially if his facility discharges him and washes their hands clean, as they have mentioned they might do.  

Guns in this country are a huge problem.  I am personally 100% for gun control and always have been. The research and numbers bear it out, as does logic—it's a lot harder to impulsively kill someone without a gun.  Arguments such as bombs, screwdrivers, hammers, and knives being used to kill people are foolish to me.  There will always be ways to kill other people.  But guns make it quick, easy , and thoughtless.  There is very little effort or thought that must go into killing someone with a gun.

However, I strongly believe that the mental health system in our country is broken, and addressing one venue without the other is going to leave a hole in our healing.  We must provide more comprehensive services for those who need them, and make those services available.  The two years the insurance company spent having us prove that our child needed inpatient care caused a decompensation to the extent that I don't know if we'll ever get him back.  Psychological experts may or may not agree with me, but as an early childhood educator and someone who has studied mental health extensively, we all know an earlier intervention is a better intervention.  This kid needed to be hospitalized a good eighteen months before he was...and he was sent home time and again.

So for now I pray for those families who have suffered such loss I cannot begin to comprehend; I pray for their peace and healing.  And I pray that our nation can somehow figure out a way to ensure that this kind of tragedy is no longer a yearly event.  And on a selfish note, I pray that I'm never facing the wrong end of my son's gun.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

To Have or Not To Have

Today has been another difficult day.  Our visit with my son last night did not go well.  Within three minutes he was argumentative and rude, at which point I gave him the letter I had written for him and told him I loved him and would see him later.  It has been ages since I have been able to effectively disengage from his inappropriate behavior.  Usually he follows me around the house, even breaking through locked doors if need be.  There is something very satisfying about being able to walk out the door and know I am not going to be followed, harassed, or threatened.

Life has a funny way of tossing interesting ideas on your lap and the most ironic times.  When I booted up my computer a few minutes ago, there was an article entitled, "35-Year Old Refuses to Have Children".  Okay, besides the absolute melodrama in the title, I seriously began to think about this woman and what she did and didn't want to do.  She does want to live her own life and do things that some parents would consider selfish—travel, go out all hours of the day and night, pursue her own career.  What she doesn't want to do is have to put her own goals aside for a sniveling little tot who is totally dependent on her.

It would be very easy for me at this point—after being literally abused physically and emotionally for months—to wish I had never agreed to take custody of my child.  I have thought before about what my life would have been like had I been childless, or even more intriguing, had my own biological child.  Would my own child love me more?  Would he be interested in music like I was at that age?  Would he be loving and sweet, ethical and strong, and someone I would be proud of?

I have a close friend who has a child with similar behaviors and diagnoses as my own son.  He is her own biological child, and while he is not as severe as my own son, he does cause worry and concern for her.  She has brought up the very valid point that having your own biological child is no guarantee that you will have smooth sailing.

I often find myself making excuses for myself, as in "he is not my biological child; he experienced some early trauma before I got him."  While this information is 100% true and absolutely useful for a therapist, it sounds guiltily like an excuse when I use it to excuse myself for my own child.  In the end it doesn't really matter and people will think what they will.  He is a sick child.  Just as I have written about a strong, special young woman who had CF and a successful double lung transplant, my son is extremely ill.  His reasoning is faulty.  His thinking is convoluted.  He needs help far beyond what I can give him at home.

And in the end, despite the pain I have felt for so long, I honestly don't recall ever wishing I had NOT taken this child.  I have wished he lived elsewhere, I have prayed for his health and healing, I have cried for an answer to my prayers.  But I have never wished he was someone else's child, someone else's "problem".

I don't fault any woman who doesn't want a family.  My God, my best advice is if you don't feel that drive, do NOT do it!  You AND your potential offspring deserve better.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to spend your life exploring the person you are.  In fact, a lot of women would be better off doing just that.

But for those of us who are called, who feel the ache of an empty womb, the thrill of a tiny life in our arms, the dream of watching a child grow under our watchful eye, we commit.  We commit to providing wonderful experiences, to carrying babies safe and snug inside our bodies, or protecting them in the arms of love once they come to us.  I love my son more than I can say.  I kissed his boo boos, watched and cheered when he learned to swim and play ball, helped him with homework, took pictures on the first day of school.  I sent in treats for parties and planned family vacations and holidays.  Every moment we have had has not been completely overshadowed by mental illness.  And for that I am incredibly grateful.

For those of us who feel the calling, we will go as far as we can, and that love is never-ending.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Another day

The most normal day I've had in weeks.

I did wake up in the middle of the night for an hour but fell back asleep.  Got up at 8:45, made some eggs and toast (I NEVER cook breakfast if I don't have to, especially not on the weekend!).  Watched a little tv, took a nap, then took a shower, dressed, and walked to a nearby mexican place for a quick-made burrito.  Yes folks, I ate breakfast AND lunch.  And I even had a snack of organic greek yogurt this afternoon.

If you're wondering why this is so important, it's because this normalcy never happens anymore.  A day without tears, with a shower and breakfast and relaxation—true relaxation—I don't know the last time that happened to me.  It's been a long time for sure.

This afternoon the call came.  This one was from the supervisor of our son's in-home therapist.  She believes he will qualify for residential care, which he desperately needs but which we have been told repeatedly he does not qualify for.  I really wonder what you'd have to do to qualify.  I wish there had been secret cameras in the assessment room the other day at the hospital, because that in itself should be enough evidence of how mentally ill he is.

So now I'm supposed to bust my ass again to try to get him into residential care.  And I will do it because the alternative is he leaves this state to live elsewhere, and I feel residential is his best chance at healing and beginning to live a normal life.

Today as I went about my eggs and toast, my nap, my shower, chatting with friends and making phone calls, I reveled in the normalcy of it all.  This is the kind of day that my nonworking mom friends have, the ones whose kids are in school all day.  This is the kind of day I used to have, before I knew not to take it for granted.  This is the kind of day that makes you realize how special a normal kind of day can be.  And I'm grateful for it.  There may be pressure and stress right around the corner (for sure there will be!) but I have been so blessed to have today, where I feel normal and right and have all that I need.

Thank you God.  And please help me pick up the sword to fight again tomorrow, as I know I need to do.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Losing a limb

So for months, if not years, we have been battling with our son to behave appropriately.  The last three months have not been kind.  At fifteen he has completely refused to go to school, breaks every rule we set, is volatile, verbally abusive, and violent.  I don't want to go into a huge laundry list of what this kid is doing because it's really beside the point.  A decision was made by all adults involved that he should go live with my husband in another state.

Son wailed.  Son screamed.  Son made threats.  And thus we found ourselves back at the psychiatric hospital today.  After eight hours, they finally admitted him.  Eight hours that I got to hear from him what a disgusting, horrible dumbass retard shit of a mom I am (his words, not mine).  Eight hours of verbal abuse.  And then, when it's time for me to go, the kid says-he says for real-"Hey mom, I need a hug...I won't see you til tomorrow..."

I did not want to hug him.  I do not want to see him right now because I'm too angry and tired and hurt, and quite frankly, I want the luxury to lay in my bed by myself and cry my tears.  But I hugged him anyway and will show up tomorrow in time for family therapy, with the clothing he needs.  Because that's what moms do.

Apparently, even disgusting, horrible dumbass retard shit moms like me.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

In Retrospect

So time helps one gain a little clarity...or so that's what I have been led to believe.

I don't know how much clarity I have versus the clarity I had a week ago, but I'm good with it.  I know the right decision was made regarding my job.  I could have hung in a little longer, possibly, but I would have been incredibly ill doing it and in a torturous hell.

The hardest thing I'm struggling with right now (or one of the hardest...God knows there's a long list to choose from) is accepting the fact that this illness is taking a toll on me and limits what I can and cannot do.  Most of my life, I have blamed myself when I couldn't accomplish something.  Too hard to walk a marathon?  My fault for being overweight and out of shape.  Too difficult to complete a job?  My weak mind in telling myself it sucked and I couldn't do it.  Not a big housecleaner?  My fault for being lazy.  It's just been in the last couple of months that I have started to recognize that the limitations i have aren't due to a weak spirit or lazy personality.  They're due to physical limitations that I have.  Normal people—even heavy ones—don't fall asleep at work, or race to the restroom to vomit regularly, or cringe in pain when a child hugs them.  Those are issues having to do with fibromyalgia.  Those are issues having to do with a physical illness.

I believe that I have found a part time babysitting job that would help me at least pay for my healthcare premium.  I'm hoping to begin a training business for child care employees.  I'm also looking at selling an at-home product.  We'll see.  I may end up giving up things I greatly enjoy, like my cell phone.  But we have to do what we have to do.  Cut our coat to fit the cloth, so to speak.

What I do know is that I am not alone in this struggle.  I have been blessed with a wonderful support system of family and friends who will not let me fail.  I also believe with my whole heart that God is looking out for me, and He will help me end up where I need to be.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another one bites the dust.

So sometimes I think if it weren't for the job I had in the last state I lived in, I wouldn't be good at holding on to a job at all.

That's really not true.  I've held on to a couple for several years, which is an accomplishment considering my age, I think.

Today I got canned.  To be fair, it was coming and I should have seen it and predicted it.  I had turned in my resignation yesterday and offered to give them a month.

Back to the beginning...

I started a new job in June.  Full time, excellent pay, health insurance.  All sounds good, right?  Of course.  Except right after I started, my son began acting out again.  Worse than before and in ways that required me to miss work—for appointments with everyone from the shrink to the court system.

As time went on, my fibromyalgia grew increasingly worse.  There wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't in pain.  I'm in pain as I write this.  I saw my doctor at the end of last week, who snapped at me for not seeing her sooner (I couldn't with the schedule I had) and immediately ordered me out of work for several days.  My first day back was yesterday, and I turned in my resignation.  It was coming anyway.  I was fairly certain I was either going to get canned or resign, so I tried to beat them to the punch.

Today, I woke up with a migraine and horrible nausea.  I called in.  A couple hours later I got a call back, informing me they had decided to let me go.  AND they wouldn't be paying me for this week.  At all.  Thankyouverymuchgoodbye.

But would I like to come in tomorrow and meet with everyone to say goodbye?

I had been hanging in desperately for the health insurance this job offered.  Now that isn't an option, and it's my sneaking suspicion this may be the real reason they let me go so quickly, so that I couldn't access it.  But whatever.  I've learned the hard way that there's a limit to everyone's graciousness.  They have tried to be patient to some extent and I couldn't deliver.  The stress has been too much.

To be honest, I'm not sorry about it and it's not like I'm going to miss it.  But my feelings are a bit hurt.  And it's left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.  People that I thought understood what I was going through clearly don't.  People that I thought I could trust, maybe not so much.

So I'm dusting off the resume and sending it back out.  The right one will come along when it should.  At least I pray to God that it will.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

And so it goes.

Often when I write, it helps to put me back into a space where I can focus on the positive.  That can be difficult at times when doing battle with attachment disorder and whatever else is going on for my son.  I need that positive space and for my head to be clear.  I need it badly, and I haven't been as active in blogging as of late.  So perhaps this is exactly where I need to be.

Yesterday I had to file charges against my own child.  He assaulted me on Saturday.  Granted, I wasn't hurt, but I was scared, and it was time to move forward to the next step.  I'm not crazy about filing charges against him.  It opens up a legal can of worms and makes him accountable to another extremely flawed system.  My mother bear instincts go nutty against this, because I know all the things that could go wrong here, but I feel like I have no other choice.  He HAS to be held accountable for his actions, and holding him accountable at home isn't working.

His psychiatrist started him on antidepressants a month ago.  Since then we've seen fewer explosions, but when he gets into that space, boy does he let go.  I can honestly say I'm frightened of him, more than ever before.  I believe very strongly it is not safe for him to be at home and I have reiterated this to countless professionals, all of whom nod their heads but do nothing.  The law in our state says he cannot be placed in a hospital or residential facility without his agreement unless he is an immediate harm to himself or others.  And so we sit and struggle.

He spent the majority of this past weekend with other people because he had assaulted me at home and the police did not want him to stay here.  It is incredibly frustrating to me that because of his age, I am required to bring the person who assaulted me back home to live...with me, his victim.  The escalation of his behavior isn't taken into account.  The fear I feel in my own home isn't considered.  My daughter's safety isn't a priority.  My son's rights win out, above all else.  That is a problem.

He has apologized for his behavior.  I don't know if that was a manipulative tactic or if he truly regrets what he did.  It's impossible to tell any more.  Some days I try to stay focused and convinced that we can make headway before he turns eighteen; other days I feel like I'm counting down until he will no longer be in my custody.  I never, ever thought I would be this tapped out and hopeless.  I have come to realize recently that I have done everything I can possibly do, and at this point it is fully in his hands.  That is incredibly difficult to accept.

So I continue to pray and to try and to follow all of the advice of his many therapists.  Age eighteen is coming faster than he realizes, like it or not, and adult consequences will be put into place at that point.  I'm just praying he learns some impulse control and anger management before then.