Day 153 - Parenting, Crisis Teams & 50th Birthdays.
Yesterday was my girlfriend’s 50th birthday. I texted her fairly early in the morning to wish her a Happy Birthday and tell her that I was hoping she had a great day. She responded with a thank you and then proceeded to tell me that the crisis team had been at her house until 11:30 pm the night before due to her son’t erratic and reckless behavior. The team was on their way back as she texted. As is their reputation in our community, the crisis team did little to assist with the crisis.
I am again amazed at how little good and competent mental health care there is for children in our community. If you spent any time at all with her son, you would know that he has issues, severe issues that require careful handling and a lot of patience. He is a great kid. He is funny, smart, interesting, kind. He is also mentally ill. Subject to drastic and erratic mood changes. Delusional thinking. Yesterday’s crisis was due to him deciding that he wanted to be homeless. So he was refusing to come home or go to school; instead setting up a new residence with the homeless in an encampment. The older homeless people told him to go home. They told him that he should not be there. Yet, he remained, panhandling and refusing to come home to his nice, warm bed in the lovely home he lives in.
This is not the first time the crisis team has been called and it won’t be the last. It is just the most recent time that they came and allowed a 15 year old child to tell them everything was fine despite the adults and good parents standing there telling them that nothing was right or ok. They listened to the kid and left refusing to help. Refusing to provide safety to a teenager on the edge. It is no wonder that so many teens in our community are successful in ending their lives. The mental health care for them here blows.
This would be where I usually give people like the crisis team a break and say how hard their jobs are...but I am not going to do that today. Today I am angry. I am thinking about the parents who love these kids. Who have done everything they possibly can to help them. Who lack the resources to keep them safe. When a troubled teen says they are leaving, besides physically restraining them (which would result in a CPS report against the parents) what are we actually supposed to do? I cannot tell you how powerless, hopeless and despondent it feels to reach out for help and be provided none. Or worse yet, be told that we should do all the things that we have already tried and have failed many times over. To be prevented from taking action to keep our children safe from themselves and their mental machinations that tell them that walking out of your nice middle class home to live among the homeless is a great idea, is a level of powerlessness that I hope you never have to face.
I know it is hard. I know they have a hard job. But in the end it is just a job. They get to go home and live their lives. Parents with children with mental health issues do not ever get to go home to a calm and stable home. The home is the battle ground. Always shifting and moving so that no one who resides there ever really gets a moments peace. All who reside there are constantly and continually on edge. Never knowing when the bottom is going to fall out and all hell is going to break loose. It is like living in a war zone...always. Moments of exquisite pain, followed up just seconds later with mundane life tasks that are almost comical in their juxtaposition to the moment just before.
My friend and her husband are great parents. They have done everything right. But no amount of love, discipline, structure, kindness or good parenting can change the mental health of your child. You remain powerless no matter how much you care or love them. As the child ages, your power and control evaporates before your eyes, all the while your child continues to exhibit more and more bizarre and dangerous behaviors. The threat increases as their age increases while your power to effectuate any real change decreases.
Because my friend and her husband are good parents. They didn’t give up yesterday. They continued to seek resources until something shifted and they were able to get some help. The help actually came from out of county because they were so desperate they started calling to the county from which they adopted their son. That county helped them when our county continued to give them the run around. So the wheels have begun to turn. Help is being offered and now they just have to jump through all the hoops to make it happen. I say this to highlight the irony. You try finding a placement for a 15 year old boy with a multitude of mental health issues. I can promise you, it will be all you do for weeks.
So another crisis weathered and survived. For many, this would be a major event. But for those of us with children with mental health issues, it is just a Thursday. We become inured to the stuff that occurs in our homes. The crisises, the drama, the trauma. But in between all of that we learn to live our lives in the moment. Never knowing what is going to happen next. I think this gives us something that many others miss. The ability to step outside the fray and really enjoy our lives. Despite all of the chaos and uncertainty, we can enjoy a moment...because that is all we truly have.
Throughout all of the craziness of the last 48 hours, my friend was able to go out for a nice birthday dinner as things began to settle down. And she appreciated it. She commented on how nice it was and how grateful she was to have been able to have a little joy and reprieve on her special day. This is what living with mental illness gives you if you let it: the ability to occupy the moment with a gratitude that would be hard to come by otherwise. You get to develop optimism that you can deploy in even the darkest moments. It is the manner in which you come to live your life because it is the only way you can find a little hope and sanity.
I am so grateful that my friend was able to have a nice meal. I am so grateful that she was able to text me that she really enjoyed a nice dinner despite all of the absolute craziness that filled and occupied her day. I am amazed at her resilience, her fortitude, her sense of humor, her love for this child, the ability of she and her husband to continue to love each other despite all of the hardship and trials. She is a warrior mother. She is a badass. She is fucking amazing. I hope she knows it. I hope she knows just for a minute how wonderful she truly is. I hope after she got home from her dinner and then had her child run out of the house at 10 pm to go back to the homeless encampment, I hope once she was able to bring him back home and get to bed, I hope that she looked in the mirror and loved herself. I hope she realized that she is amazing and wonderful and the best mother I know. I hope that on her 50th birthday, she was able to use the circumstances of the day to see that she is AWESOME.
For my friend, I would like to ask something from all of you. If you have a friend whose child has special needs, please call them or text them and just be there for them. Reach out because they are honestly too tired to do so. Take them to coffee or if they can’t get out, bring them coffee. Don’t stay too long because they won’t have the time or energy. Give them a hug and tell them that you see them. You see them and you care. Tell them they are a good mom or dad. That could mean the difference of hope and despair for them. We all need each other. Sometimes we who need the most, lack the voice to ask for anything at all.