I admitted my 10 year old son to a psychiatric hospital Wednesday night.
My son is mentally ill.
For years, I have apologized to people for who my son is. His behaviors or quirks were something that were spoken about quietly, like they were something to be embarrassed of - Like WE were embarrassed of him.
For years, I have defended myself, made excuses for a multitude of things - his medications, the therapies he receives, the fight for Special Education services, the way I choose to parent and discipline him.
Today, all of this stops. My son D is who he is. My job as his mom is to provide the best care for him that I can, to the best of my knowledge. I am not a sheep - being blindly led by psychiatrists and therapists. I do my research, and I am well educated about his associated Alphabet Soup diagnoses. He HAS to have medicine to function. I don't let the staff at his school run over me at his Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. I am on staff at his school, plus I know the laws regarding special education.
D got the shitty end of the deal when it came to genetics. See, I understand the raging in his mind, and the lows where all you want to do is hide from the world in a closet. I have Bipolar Disorder, Type 1. So does his birth father. I am compliant on my medications. It took me 8 years to finally get it right. There were times I almost lost everything - my family, my job, my mind. I am grateful for those who stuck with me through the good times and the really dark, ugly times.
Everyone knows at least one person who suffers from mental illness. One in FOUR people in America suffer from some sort of mental illness. Yet, there still is a stigma.
Today, for my D and me - this WILL STOP. No longer will I apologize for his behavior to strangers in public because he is on overload or having a meltdown. I will no longer listen to people tell me that my child is on too much medicine. I will not let people tell me I baby him when I choose to talk him down from a rage rather than "spank that ass." I will keep fighting for his equal treatment at school. He has a mental illness, but he is a bright, smart boy. I will love my child for who he is, not for what others think he should be. I will not listen to negative ex-husbands telling me that I am doing it wrong, when he is only with D four days a month and only is "Dad" when he wants to be.
Today the stigma will stop. Follow me on my and my family's journey.
I'd been traveling in Nepal for a few months; I felt a great amount love toward so many people I'd met. Their openness and kindness astounded me. I’d met so many people I could trust, and when I met one I couldn't, I wasn't expecting it. We met in a mundane way, an interaction like dozens of others - just small talk. He suggested we go get coffee and I agreed. He reminded me of a friend from home, thoughtful … if maybe a bit dark. We spoke about our lives, about our families, our schools, our hopes for the future.
The months leading up to the trip had been the most magical of my short, sweet life. I’d gradually become closer to a old friend, Elijah. He's the best person I've ever met, yet I pushed him away for years. He persisted, waited, he wrote songs, traveled far to see me. Finally, I stopped pushing him away. He’d sing me to sleep, then drive half an hour back home. We took walks late at night while the fireflies buzzed around. We took out the canoe we’d bought the year before onto the lake in the moonlight. We went to a contra dance for his birthday - he wore a floral skirt, we went to New York with a friend and rode the ferry until 4 in the morning. I slept on the floor of the subway in his arms while the sun came up.
Throughout our courtship, I’d been breaking up with a crappy, shitty, obnoxious fucking relationship. I dragged out because I didn't want to hurt anyone. Unfortunately it hurt quite a few people, Elijah included. He supported me though this, gave me advice and waited until I was ready to end it. When I did, our time together truly started. We lived in his house together for several incredible days. We cried together after watching Babe, we went to the river, we walked his dog. He drove me to and from work– half an hour each way. We were really in love, completely committed to each other.
I’d never felt more comfortable, more myself.
I carried the feeling of love and peace with me as I left for my four-month trip. It was so hard being so far from him - I felt I was spread too far. I wanted to be more present in Nepal, but I missed Elijah so much. I had pretend conversations with him, wrote him letters I never sent. We communicated less and less, but I never lost the feeling of love and closeness.
Near the end of my trip, months later, I was drinking horrible coffee with a person I was getting to know. He suggested that we go play pool and drink beer and I, feeling confident about my ability to travel alone, agreed. I don't ever drink and I don't know why I did. I went along with something I'm against and I don't know why. Maybe I was trying to break out of self-imposed restrictions. Maybe I was trying to be like all the friends I had lost. Maybe I was being reckless.
I lost control. I drank until I couldn't walk straight. We left and went outside - I was ready to return to my room a few miles away. He kissed me but it felt like an attack - so aggressive, so forceful. I said that I wanted to leave, my head was spinning; everything was spinning. He drove me back to my room. When I expected him to leave, he stayed.
My memory has so many gaps I can barely piece together what happened.
I remember telling him to stop, I remember the pain of him biting my breasts. I remember it stopped for a minute. I remember him saying it was okay, we didn't need to do that, we could just talk. I remember him entering me and every time I think of that there is nowhere to run.
I’m so furious at myself for not fighting, I can't understand why I was so paralyzed. My head was spinning, I was far from reality, but still, I could’ve fought him. This was my greatest fear - I had nightmares of being chased in a glass house by two men trying to rape me. Elijah had made me a dream catcher and they stopped. I don't have those dreams anymore - they became my reality.
Afterward, I lied to myself, I couldn't understand or face what had happened. I’d died inside, lost myself, I was less than a shell of a person.
It happened the next morning - I can't remember it, but I know it happened. He raped me the next night, too. I was dragged around, like meat on a hook, my life no longer my own. I was so far away from Elijah, from my family, from everything I've ever loved. I was a walking, breathing scar. I left that town and felt the most incredible relief. We met up again and it was the same feeling of complete loss of self; I felt disgusting and alone and dirty. He left. Again the relief.
I went back to the family I’d lived with for over a month, their love was the most wonderful, healing thing. My love for them was so powerful. I felt good again, temporarily able to forget the rape.
I continued lying to myself, and the lies, after I’d told them long enough, were difficult to disprove. I told myself that this was what I’d always wanted - to be traveling and wanted, to be pretty enough for people to want me. I covered up the assault with this bullshit façade I clung to it for dear life. I couldn't possibly be so alone, so afraid to face the truth: I was raped. I held onto these lies when I left Nepal and flew home to meet Elijah who’d driven 3,000 miles across the country to meet me.
I was so happy to see him but something was … wrong. We felt distant, we couldn't connect. I’d promised I would be honest and so I told him that I’d had sex with someone else. That was the worst lie I've ever told. I slept, but he was up all night; he drove to Washington and cried for hours.
In the morning, he had gotten us breakfast and we left. We spent the next 10 months not leaving each other’s side no matter that we were both so damaged, something so wrong. I blamed him for reminding me that I’d "cheated" on him and begged him to forget about it. He couldn't believe it was the truth. We fought for all those months – horrible, confusing fights. During them, I was so removed, almost apathetic.
We decided to take a trip to South America to truly commit to each other. After a few days there, the truth came out. Seated under a tree I told him the truth, about how I had said “no” but it happened anyway, how I’d been dead inside. It wasn't an easy truth to hear.
After all those lies, he can't always trust me. Sometimes he does, sometimes he wants to, and sometimes he wants me to suffer all the pain I've caused him. Sometimes he doesn't believe me. He tries to understand why I didn't fight back, why I let it happen several times after the first attack. I feel this foul, consuming darkness. I feel this love was ripped away from me, his trust ripped away. I need him to believe me, to forgive me. I love him. I don't want to pressure him but he blames me. He gets mad at me and believes first lie sometimes. He’s never laid a hand on me but sometimes I wonder how we can be together if he doesn’t believe me.
He's the only person I've told of my attack, I trust him and love him more than I can even understand, but this has made it really difficult for me to heal. I feel I’ll never have my life back, when I’m alone, I get so scared. My fists clench. Waiting for a sound of someone coming near.
The dentist said that I can’t make irreversible mistakes, he had no idea what that meant to me. I smiled. I know that this is irreversible, I just hope wherever it takes me, I’ll be all right. An old friend said that I looked as though I've really experienced things. He, too, had no idea what that meant.
My life is changed forever I think. I don't think it has to be for the worse. It certainly has been, but I have hope. I have hope that someday when my eyes are open they see the bright blue of Elijah's eyes, and when they are closed, they see the calmness of the night sky.
"Clean your room!"
Every kid hears that at one point or another, right?
I was a frequent offender.
Okay maybe a bit more than that...
My room was in a constant state of disarray. Like straight from the movie "Twister."
It wasn't because I was lazy or anything, it was because I was comforted by the cluttered furniture and overflowing clean laundry baskets. Everything had a place, and I knew where to find it (general direction anyways).
After many failed attempts of getting me to clean up my room, my mother just gave in, gave up.
Or so I thought..
Then one day I come home from school to a neat and tidy room that I didn't recognize.
I freaked the fuck out!
My safe place was gone. I couldn't breathe.
If I were any normal kid I would have been happy that I was able to skip the dirty work. But, I wasn't a normal kid by any means.
I immediately threw all of the neatly folded clothes to the floor, emptied out my newly organized bookshelves and massacred all of the work mother did. I felt violated, I needed my chaos.
Here I am years later and an adult and I think back to that day and it makes sense. It finally clicked.
You see, I was diagnosed with bipolar a few years ago, although I've suffered with it for as long as I remember. I'm currently figuring out what medications "work" for me. I know I'll need to be on them for the rest of my life. I get that, I do.
But I feel like I'm suffocating.
My messy room is an exact mirror image to what it's like inside my head. I've lived with the chaotic thoughts and rapid mood swings for so long, that it's comforting in a way. I hate it, I hate not having a second to breathe. I hate climbing the highs and then crashing down to terrible lows in the blink of an eye. I hate that I can't sleep for days because my mind won't stop!
But it's become home to me.
Medication is like coming home to the room I don't recognize all over again. I don't recognize myself and it scares the fuck out of me. I don't know who I am anymore.
So, just like before, I will immediately destroy my newly organized mind and go off my medications.
Why is this so hard? Why can't I embrace the silence? It's what I wanted!
It's like I'm split in two; the rational me knows I need to gain control of my disorder to finally experience a slice of normalcy, and the bipolar me is terrified of who I'll become without the constant chaos. I'm so torn and so lost. I'm terrified.
But, it's not just me I have to worry about anymore. I have a husband and a 2 year old son who rely on me and are directly affected by my constant turmoil.
There was one week about 6 months ago where I was really good. I was happy! I was normal! And in turn, my husband and son were equally as happy.
But then I ruined it. I'd look in the mirror and I wouldn't recognize myself. It's like a stranger was looking back at me in my reflection.
I don't know who I am anymore, I don't know if I ever have. I've spent 23 years consumed by chaos, I don't know what will remain if that chaos goes away, what if I hate who I become? What if my family doesn't love the new "normal" me?