Christmas is about a week away and while many of us consider this time of year joyful and filled with cheer and happiness, this particular holiday is a very poignant one for me. Christmas 2017 was a horrible day for me and my son. We spent most of it in a hospital psychiatric unit.
I can’t remember what specifically triggered my son’s behaviors that landed him in the hospital but it was bad. It was like other difficult episodes between us but this time around he was just not controllable. He was disrespectful, destructive, vindictive and these emotions displayed themselves in an uncontrollable need to make someone – me – feel his anger. The police came and couldn’t defuse the situation so they called family services to intervene. Because it was Christmas, no one was on staff to respond quickly so we waited about 4 hours until case managers could come to my home and help. They arrived and almost immediately they determined that there was little they could do other than to call an ambulance and have him evaluated at the hospital. They didn’t feel safe around my son and felt that I, too, was unsafe. They would not leave my home unless I took him to the hospital.
I won’t ever forget that morning. We left with essentially our pajamas on. Rather than waking up opening Christmas presents and celebrating the holiday, we were in an ambulance heading to another stupid and useless hospital. This wasn’t his first hospitalization (he was hospitalized in 2014 and again in 2016). Despite the unsuccessful experience we have had with hospitals, I was numbed to the night and didn’t know what else to do. It was just so traumatic for us both that I couldn’t even be angry. All I could do was sit in that ambulance and go through the motions, knowing the outcome – a wasted day with the same diagnosis and a very expensive ER bill.
Sure enough nearly 12 hours later, the same outcome. Yet another psychiatrist diagnosed my son with some kind of mood disorder and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) and recommended both medication and therapy – all things I already knew. I thanked him and we went home. By then it was about 5pm. Most of Christmas was spent in hell.
Christmas 2017 is still a very vivid memory and experience for me. It may take many more Christmases before I can finally get to a place where I have made peace with that episode and can celebrate the holiday the way it should be.
I share this experience because mental health is very toilsome and wearying on families. We don’t really hear about these stories but they exist more than we know. I started this blog because I couldn’t believe that I was the only person on Earth experiencing this hardship. I needed to write about it because talking about it did very little for me. Most people who listened just couldn’t provide the comfort that I desperately needed. They didn’t live my life and “I’m so sorry you’re going through this” wasn’t enough.
Living through mental health issues is an incredibly harrowing and lonely experience. Families suffer from the ravages of mental health conditions as much as the victims do. We need help too and it starts by talking about it.
Writing my experiences has started to heal me but I have a long way to go. I’ve lived this for 18 years (I include the year with my son’s father who was mentally and emotionally abusive to me) and I have a lot to share. I hope, for anyone of you who is experiencing the same challenges with mental health, you find some relief and comfort reading You’re Not A Bad Parent. You’re not alone.