Thursday, October 31, 2013

Two Steps Back

I sent Thomas off to work last night after having a late dinner that stressed him out because he finished up close to the time he had to go to work. Whenever we are doing something that he feels doesn't give him enough time to get ready for work, it stresses him out. I felt bad for him as he gulped dinner down and got ready. We went out to the car and he got in and was quiet. I asked him if his anxiety level was up and he said it was a little but when we got to work he got out seemingly fine.

When I picked him up it was a whole other story. He got in and I could sense a heaviness in him. I asked him if he was ok and he said yes but I wasn't convinced. There was something obviously off. I reached for his hand and he didn't touch me and he usually does so I knew something was off for sure. We talked a little bit on the ride home but it was like pulling teeth to get any information out of him and what he said held no clues for me.

When we got home, he walked silently inside, shoulders slumped, a somber look on his face. Once inside, I set my purse down and turned to find him standing there behind me waiting for me.

"Mom? Can I have a hug?" he asked.

I reached for him and hugged him tightly. It is in these embraces that I try to break through whatever's plaguing him.

"Are you ok?" I asked.

"I'm just tired." he quietly responded.

I knew it was more than that but I couldn't get him to say much more. I asked him,

"Are you having symptoms?"

"No." he quietly said.

"Remember kiddo, if you are having any symptoms you need to let me know ok?"

"I will."

I was unconvinced as I pulled away and looked into his eyes. There was darkness there and yes, some tiredness but mostly I saw a sad, dark young man. I went on to talk to him about how he could speak with Andy, his job rehab specialist, or he could tell me and I could speak to her. He nodded and reached for another hug. I held him so tightly and tried to hug away whatever was getting at him.

He went into his room and I followed him in there and asked again how his evening at work had gone. He said he had done the same stuff (facing shelves) and that he cleaned a bathroom too. I shared with him how when I worked at McDonald's I had to do the same thing and it was not a pleasant job and was met with silence.

When I went to bed I left behind a struggling kid and with my heart heavy I got into bed and tried to think through the last 20 minutes with him. I had told him that he was getting paid on Friday and was he excited about that and his response was less than enthusiastic. He said he didn't know how he was going to get a paycheck because a manager had forgotten to go over that with him. Apparently there are 3 different ways you can get a paycheck, two of which he could remember which were a hard copy check or an automatic deposit. I asked him what he wanted (a hard copy check) and I told him that was probably what they defaulted to since they hadn't asked him exactly how he wanted his check. I could get no enthusiasm out of him about payday and that worried me. I have held onto the receipt of that paycheck as something that would make him happy and it just didn't seem to be working.

So, I don't know. As I sit here this morning I am in the dark as to what is plaguing him. Is it the check? Is it the job? Is he experiencing symptoms that he doesn't want to talk about? I'm hoping that when he wakes this morning that I'll get my answer but in the meantime here I am again in my quiet early morning wondering what will greet me when he wakes up later.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Working For A Living

It's funny because I have wanted to share with you all how Thomas is doing at his job but I can't get much info out of him! He holds his experiences close to his vest or..or he's, more often than not, trying to catch up on texts and tweets that rolled in while he was at work once he's in the car with me after work. I am competing with friends and news agencies and YouTube video creators' tweets for his attention. I told him last night as I took him to work that he had better be prepared to talk after work because I wanted to know all about his day. I'll share that in a minute.

When I take him to work now his anxiety is next to nothing which is really great because I didn't know how long that was going to stick around. I knew any prolonged anxiety was going to set off symptoms and I was very worried about that. Now when he goes to work, we sit in relative silence listening to his favorite station on XM. A few months ago he found a station that plays 40's music and every ride in the car now has been a trip back in time. He says the music relaxes him so while I'm not particularly a fan of the era of music, what I am a fan of is him finding some peace of mind.

When I picked him up last night I actually got him to talk. Unlike when I worked at McDonald's when I was young and punched in at an actual time clock, he just logs into a computer and enters his employee number and he's officially clocked in. This little detail is cool to me since I have been out of the working world for a while. He works now pretty regularly at a set shift of 6-10p.m. I like this personally because I want him to keep the structure in his life that insures his sanity to some degree.

Last night all he did was face shelves which entails making sure product is facing forward and straight on the shelves. He also picks up things that aren't in the right place, throws them in a cart and then later tries to find their rightful locations and he puts them back. I have to laugh in a way because I am one of those guilty customers who tends to put things back in other areas of the store if I decide I don't want them. Out of respect for the people who clean up after me, like Thomas, I plan to stop that practice A.S.A.P.

The work for him is repetitive which is not his favorite thing to do so I don't know how long he'll last doing that. He has gotten the opportunity to unload trucks and open boxes and put things out in the store which he really liked doing. It is my hope that they'll have him do that more often just to switch things up a little bit.

Overall he says he likes his job. He's very flat, emotion-wise, when he talks about work. A lot of things he doesn't remember doing and as I said earlier trying to get him to talk while texts and tweets roll in hampers my mom-like need for information.

His greatest disappointment is that he works on Halloween. Last week when he didn't know his schedule he bought a costume and then discovered he works till 10. I'm a little sad about that because I wanted him to get out with friends that night. While I don't want him to stress out, I do want him to try to be out in the dark to gain strength in the belief that he is safe out there. I told him to see if he can get his friends to come pick him up from work tomorrow and go out for the night but he got a little anxious and evasive about the prospect of that. So, it remains to be seen what will happen tomorrow night. I have a sneaking suspicion that he'll come home and go to bed like he's been doing every other night after work.

Lastly, Friday is his birthday!!!!!!! He will be 19. I can't believe that he will be 19. I still remember holding him in my arms shortly after he joined me in this world. I am a lucky mom to have him with me to go through life with.

So, there you go. Overall things are good for him. He gets paid Friday so any unhappiness he might feel about having to face shelves will probably melt away when he gets that check. He was making just over $3.00 an hour at his rehab/job skills job and now he makes $7.25 and hour so he'll see a pretty decent paycheck as a result. I'll let you know how that goes for him. I think he already has the money spent.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Crack In The Foundation (Part II in a series on families affected by schizophrenia)

I'm sure that many of you might wonder why I'm such a mama bear when it comes to Thomas. Besides the obvious, that he needs protection now that he has schizophrenia, there is so much more to my reasoning.

When Thomas was five, his biological dad and I divorced. It was a very rough time on us because my ex-husband then married my sister. It was hard enough to see my marriage end in such a fashion but for Thomas is was a life changing thing.

From very young, now with 20/20 hindsight, he was exhibiting fledgling symptoms of schizophrenia. They were mild but they were there nonetheless. So losing his bio-dad at such a young age in all likelihood took its toll on him. What hurt most, I think, is that my sister had kids that Thomas knew well and to see his dad go off and become their caregivers was hard. What made it harder was that with that divorce came utter abandonment and as time marched on, his bio-dad lost touch with Thomas leaving him painfully alone and without a dad in his life.

Within a couple of years I was remarried to my now husband and our family grew because he brought with him his 14 year old daughter. I struggled alone with parenting her and Thomas because my husband just wasn't cut out for raising kids and it wasn't long, because he contributed next to nothing, that his daughter left our home to live with her mom. While healing from my divorce I now had my little Thomas to love and care for and my 14 year old stepdaughter struggled in her own pain because she wanted a dad as much as Thomas did but she also didn't need yet another mom and we had a tough time building our relationship. It was made harder because I was left to parent my step daughter who wanted little to do with me and I was left to pick up the pieces of Thomas' broken heart.

Now, I love my husband, I often call him "my one" because he picked up the pieces of my broken heart and put me back together slowly but surely. I looked the other way when it came to his lack of involvement with Thomas because I wanted my marriage to work more than I wanted most things. I thought to myself that I could love Thomas enough for everyone missing from his life, both in distance, in abandonment and now with my husband, with a lack of emotional involvement. It wasn't easy but I managed and I promised Thomas that no matter what happened that he was my first and only choice when it came down to it.

As our life as a little family progressed, we ran into massive hurdles because as Thomas became sicker and sicker the arguments between my husband and I gained strength. He felt Thomas should have behaved, spoken and even played differently than he did. He picked at just about everything leaving wound after wound for me to repair and love away. We all became lost in the burgeoning illness and I watched as Thomas' heart broke over and over again as this new man in his life repeatedly stepped off of the parenting and emotional support box and walked away into his own inner life.

Over time, I became angrier and angrier and my love and protection of Thomas grew to immense strength as I repeatedly promised myself that he would never have to know the pain of not being loved the way he needed. Granted a son needs a dad and I was forever wishing that Thomas had all of that but as he navigated the world with me as his champion I'm fairly certain my husband's lack of involvement took it's toll.

Now here we are in the thick of this illness and Thomas struggles almost daily in one form or another and I lovingly pick up pieces and make things right all in an effort to insure his happiness as much as is possible when you have schizophrenia. The arguments between my husband and I have gotten more frequent lately as Thomas' illness evolves because my husband sees behaviors that I believe strongly he doesn't like because he can't emotionally handle them. After all, though he's been absent in many ways from Thomas' life, he has watched him grow and become the young man he is now and I would like to hope that he feels some of the same loss as I do about the changes that have happened to Thomas. In any case, he has chosen to detach even further as a result and I imagine that in this time when Thomas needs all of the love and support and understanding that he can get, he is again feeling abandoned.

So you see, it has been my life's work to love and protect Thomas. Most days I go it alone trying to heal the past hurts and help him view the future in a healthy way. I fight for him and his sanity with a ferocity that is strengthened by the fact that I truly feel that Thomas and I are in this together. Alone. Some days I'm sure I go overboard with my love and protection but even then I am not deterred from my fight for Thomas. He has seen the acute, painful loss of his biological dad and watched as the man who stepped up in his place abandoned him too. My marriage remains on rocky ground and the future becomes more uncertain as the days and weeks pass but I am working like hell to make sure that Thomas has enough love to fill him up. I can't replace a father figure but I can make sure that he is not left completely alone in this world wondering if there is someone to love and protect him.

I am a mama bear, I love my child and I am angry at anyone who comes to harm him. I am a mama bear who does everything in her power to protect him. I am a mama bear with teeth and claws and tenacity that plans with all of her heart and soul to make sure that her son finds his way in life, even if he and I do it alone.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Crack In The Foundation (a new series on families affected by schizophrenia Part 1)

With Thomas now securely in his new job I thought I'd turn, for a moment, to a different aspect of loving someone living with schizophrenia. The foundation of the family is something that doesn't get written about a lot (at least not that I could find in my travels across the internet) so I'm going to write about my little family and schizophrenia's effect on it.

As people in my support group affiliated with this page can attest to, Thomas being sick has taken its toll on my marriage too. There are many other relationships that can be affected but my family is just our tiny little family made up of myself, Thomas and my husband. My parents are also affected but let me cover that another time.

My marriage has always been on a little bit of rocky ground because of the fact that my husband married me but took Thomas on because he was a part of me. Thomas was not a choice, more an obligation than anything and that was clear almost from the very start. I always held on to the hope that my husband would see how wonderful Thomas was and he would make the decision to step up as his dad. It didn't happen. He loves me and I believe in his own way he loves Thomas too but it's never been a steady, strong, parental love. Through the years of raising Thomas, my husband and I fought quite a bit about Thomas because he thought Thomas' behavior needed to change. He saw Thomas as a defiant child who didn't do much to contribute to the family and any odd behavior was met with frustration on his part. I know that part of it was because he didn't understand what was going on with Thomas in those early years, heck I didn't understand it, but with 2 parents struggling to understand and keep their marriage healthy in the midst of it was nearly impossible for us.

Fast forward to the last year since Thomas was diagnosed. Over and over I have tried to explain to my husband what it means for Thomas to have schizophrenia but he could never quite grasp it. He still can't. He'll have moments where he'll understand, or appear to, but with time we would return to our old arguments about Thomas' behavior and emotions and we'd find ourselves fighting again. You see, he sees Thomas now as an 18 year old kid who should be out of the house and on his own. My husband was independent by the age of 15 so all he knows is being a young man no longer dependent on his parents. How my husband came to be on his own so young is a story of terrible, absent parenting that left him no place to run but away from the hell he was in. He became gainfully employed as a teenager and supported himself and later a family pretty decently. It is that model that he expects Thomas to follow and me, knowing the truth of this illness, doesn't see where Thomas will find a similar place for himself anytime soon. As a result we are in a state of locked horns where I'm pushing hard to protect Thomas and he's pushing back in an attempt to get Thomas out of the house as soon as possible.

So, needless to say, we fight a lot lately. I had made the decision long ago that I would walk by Thomas' side through his journey with schizophrenia and my husband has trailed along behind grumbling and moody and sometimes growling and lashing out at both Thomas and I. He wants the life he had always looked forward to and that was one of the two of us child-free on a beach somewhere with not a care in the world. Once Thomas was diagnosed I put that dream away myself and began my new life with Thomas included along the way. My husband did not. I am Thomas' mom and will do whatever I need to do to secure him a safe place in his world and that is a sacrifice I don't think much about because to me, that's just what you do as a mom. To my husband though, what he knows is forcing children from the home regardless of their circumstances. As you can see, that is a recipe for a disaster and our hurricane has hit and is currently wreaking havoc in our marriage.

I know that some of you have told me to take a vacation alone with my husband, that that will solve some of the problems, but the fact is, when we come back from that beach, we will find ourselves right back where we began and that is an epic struggle over what's best for Thomas and how we should handle it.

I am creating a series here about schizophrenia's effect on a family and will write more about it at later times. I do this because I know a lot of you out there are in crumbling marriages and familial relationships and I want you to know that you are not alone. I believe schizophrenia tests the very best of relationships so for those relationships on thin ice, like mine, there isn't much time and there is a lot of work to be done before we go crashing through the ice to the dark, cold depths below.

Friday, October 25, 2013

From Dark To Light To Dark

Yesterday Thomas went to his first shift at work. It was a pretty rough afternoon leading up to it because he was reporting his anxiety at a 10 out of 10. He's NEVER a 10. Then between therapy and work he had just an hour to eat dinner and get ready. In that time, 20 minutes before his shift, he got a massive bloody nose and was delayed a little bit in getting ready. All I could think when that started was that with everything going on, he just couldn't catch a break. His usual remedy for a bloody nose it to put in (what I like to call) a Kleenex cork to help stop the bleeding but he certainly couldn't go to work like that. Luckily he was able to get it stopped in time and I took him to work.

In the car on the way he held my hand with a death grip and I tried to find the words to comfort him but was unable to. It's so hard as a mom to not be able to repair the pain your child is feeling. No Band-Aid and Neosporin was going to fix this one. Because he's my boy, my baby, my flesh and blood, I could feel his tension but when he was getting out of the car, I felt a calm wash over me and I watched as he smiled and got out of the car and went in. I knew in that moment that he was feeling better.

He worked a 5-10pm shift and I waited with anxiousness and excitement to hear about his day. He called shortly into his shift to ask for the last 4 digits of his social security number to be able to clock in and he sounded pretty good. There were no more calls after that. Thank God.

At 9:50pm I drove over to wait in the parking lot and there he was running through it gathering carts to be brought in. I was so proud of him for being out there in the dark alone doing his job. I watched from the car as he closed up the store and the lights went off inside.

Once he got in the car I couldn't help but begin the questioning about his job. He had in his hand a liter of Jolly Rancher cherry soda and he reported with a smile that he gotten that for 30% off by using his employee discount. He loved this and I loved it for him. There's nothing like enjoying the fruits of his labor.

Like most guys I have known in my life he was painfully cryptic about his night. No matter what I asked him I got one or two word answers which drove me crazy because I wanted details! Isn't that the timeless struggle between a male and a female? One wants to chill while the other wants to talk. What I did learn is that he had worked on the floor facing shelves. His legs and feet hurt and he felt the job was a little boring! Boring! LOL after all he'd been through emotionally to come away bored was a bit of a blessing in my opinion. I didn't want him to have a night where he was under pressure and stressing out.

So, all in all it was a good first day of work for him. With his discounted cherry soda in hand he came in the house, reported that he was tired and headed off to bed. The day had begun so dark, filled with anxiety and fear but then he made it through his first day filled with the light of calm and boredom(!) and it ended with him bravely in the dark gathering carts from a nearly empty parking lot out there with all of the monsters that follow him at night. From dark to light to dark again he completed his job and lives to fight another day.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Best Possible Outcome

Yesterday I did what I said I was going to do and I reached out to Thomas' job rehab specialist. I told her that first and foremost that I didn't want to be a meddling mom and that I was open to any suggestions she had. I explained to her all of the things I wrote in my blog here about his meds at night and his paranoia at night and she told me that she agreed that Thomas shouldn't be working that particular shift. She was with him through the entire orientation process at the job and she said she was surprised when Thomas said he could do the graveyard shift but she let it go because he seemed so fine with it. That is Thomas for you. I suspect he thought he could get through anything and I think part of it was that he doesn't know how to speak up for himself when something happens, especially when an authority figure is involved.

She went on to tell me that she is bipolar and that she didn't take her meds for years because she refused to admit that she needed them but when she finally did she felt so much better. She said she wouldn't be where she is now if she hadn't taken her meds. So, she understood the value of Thomas getting the right meds at the right time and she understood that this particular shift was the wrong choice for Thomas. She promised me she would make some calls over to the job and speak with them and see what she could do.

Earlier in the morning yesterday I told Thomas that I had spoken to the rehab specialist and he was ok with that but was worried that he wouldn't get to keep his job. He was anxious all day waiting for me to hear back from her and I called her back. She said she would get back to me by noon today.

But then it happened. I was home and Thomas came out of his room and he said, "I got the call!" I had no idea what he was talking about and he told me that the job had called just then and that his new hours were 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.!!!!!! Yes! An actual real workable shift for him! I couldn't believe it! I felt like we had won some sort of lottery and then I knew that things were going to be ok for Thomas. Certainly there are a few more hurdles in our way (job stress, for one) but at least he will be working some decent hours! How cool is that?!?!?

So, he starts tonight. Everything he has worked for, everything I have hoped for him, will come to pass starting tonight at 5 p.m. I personally can't contain my excitement and my stress level dropped to almost zero and I just couldn't shut up about it last night. I went to Thomas several times and told him how proud I was of him and how excited for him that I was. This was met with some anxiety and trepidation from him because his anxiety remains intact but he is excited too. I just want him to see all of the positives of this, one of which is that he can work and he won't be kicked out of the house or left to fend for himself.

We are approaching the date of when Thomas received the diagnosis of acute paranoid schizophrenia. It was this time last year he was coming out of his first hospitalization and I was fighting the system to get him readmitted and given proper treatment and now here we are in this amazing place with true promise for his future.

You see? I promised good news and here it is!!!!!!!

I will keep you guys up to date with Thomas' new journey. I look forward to sharing it with you all and feeling like I've got people by my side through it all.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

He Survived. I Didn't

 First and foremost let me say that Thomas came out of his job yesterday after 3 1/2 hours and he was smiling. He reported that his anxiety level had dropped a great deal but was still there but he was looking forward to his job. He had gotten his uniform (which is just a t-shirt with the store logo on it) and he had gotten a name tag with "Thomas" written on it. I was a little surprised to see that since he prefers to go as "Tom" to all of his friends. He handed me his social security card with none of the previous anxiety about it and he told me his hours for his second day of work which will be Thursday. All in all I couldn't have asked for a better outcome for his own happiness and I am so happy for him that he has a job now.

There is more to the story about his first day that I am going to share. It is my point of view about his future. I don't want to throw a bucket of water on the celebration I'm sure you all feel now for him but I am going to write now as his mom, as a concerned mom.

He got his hours of work. He will work from 11:30pm to 5:00am. Yes, that is 11:30 at night till 5:30 in the morning. I won't mince my words here, I don't like this at all. Not at all. I know you all will have opinions about what I'm going to write next and I hope you'll post them in the comments section or message me privately because I am open to hearing what you have to say about this but the truth of the matter is, I just don't like this. Let me explain why.

First, Thomas has always needed routine. Whenever it has been upset in the slightest he is thrown into a tailspin. As a part time, graveyard shift worker he'll work a few nights and have a few nights off in between. It will be chaos and wreak havoc on the routine we have worked to set up for him.

Second, he takes his heaviest dose of anti-psychotics at night and they usually wipe him out for the rest of the night and I can't see how he's going to be able to work from what is currently AFTER his bedtime to right through the center of his core sleep.

Third, his paranoia is at it's highest at night, in the dark. Working on a loading dock in the dark of night just doesn't seem like the best idea for him and his psyche.

Fourth, I just flat out don't like this at all. I just don't think this is a good idea for his mental health and I am deeply worried about the effect these randomly scheduled, late hour shifts are going to have on him.

So, what I am doing about this is I am going to check in with both his therapist and his meds NP. I also currently have a call in to his job rehab specialist to let her know the hours the new job gave Thomas and I'm going to ask her some questions and get her advice. I want to be sure that I hear from everyone before I let my own worry take over the situation.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thomas' Big Day

It's here! Today is his day to shine. Sadly for him he is fighting off a monster case of anxiety and depression. It isn't for what you might think though I will say I do think a part of it is just good old fashioned, garden variety first day of work anxiety.

I told you how he came to me a couple nights ago and said he wanted to talk to me. He came out of his room yesterday morning, made me turn off the T.V. and then we sat down together. He shook and his voice faltered as he began to talk. What came out of his mouth was out of left field for me because I hadn't thought of this among all the possibilities of what might be generating his anxiety.

As it turns out, he told me how scared he was that he was starting his job. On top of that he went on to say that he had been dependent on his step-dad and I for 18 years and he felt that now that he had a job, he couldn't depend on us anymore. At all. Not even a little bit. I asked him if he felt we were going to kick him out of the house because he was now employed and he said yes. He also felt that somehow inside that he was having to give up everything he had ever known in his life because he was going to have a job. It wasn't like he felt he had to give up the fun of his current days (like video games) but he felt that those things signified childhood and he was going to have to say goodbye to all of them and become a consummate adult.

Maybe this sounds to you like nothing and I don't think I'm telling you exactly what he means by all of this, what it means deep down inside to him, but to me he was in a state of fear and mourning.

We aren't new to this way of thinking. As the school year came to an end and he prepared to graduate he felt these same things. All around him friends were being turned out into the "real world" and being told that then end of high school meant the end of a life at home, the end of meals cooked by mom and that everything they had enjoyed as kids (like cell phones) were being taken away unless they got a job and paid for those things themselves. These kids were facing a lonely, scary life and somehow Thomas connected that because his friends were being dumped out on their own that he, too, was going to have the same thing happen to him.

Never, ever, have I ever said he was on his own. I have told him that I would be by his side as these transitions were slowly made but they weren't happening at graduation and they aren't happening now.

In our conversation yesterday I reminded him of those things again. Sadly, though, he remained unconvinced and he stood up from the conversation and I hugged his trembling body and didn't let go for the longest time hoping my hugs emanated all the love and safety that I have for him and he would miraculously stop feeling so terrified. It didn't work. I turned to the only thing I had left to give him and that was the choice to take an anti anxiety pill which he bee-lined toward.

This went on all day. He stuck to me like glue and went with me everywhere I went. We had many talks all day about what it really meant to be starting this job today and I would check in with him and see if he was ok and he would tell me that he needed to be reminded all the time for a while. I had no problem with that. He needed his social security card to fill out W-2's and I went and got it and brought it to him and set it on his desk. I told him to hang onto it. It wasn't very long before he came to me and handed it to me and told me that he was very afraid of losing it (even though it was sitting safely in our home on his desk) and he made me take it back. He watched, concerned, as I put it in my wallet and I told him to remind me to give it back to him before he went into work. To him, having that social security card was yet one more indicator that he had to become independent from his old life and he just wasn't ready to take that on.

At bedtime he was still a wreck and I hugged him again with everything my heart could come up with and I told him that he would never ever be alone. I told him to think of this job like his last practice one. I told him that he was going to go to work like he always did when he worked before. I told him I would drive him and that I would be there at the end of his shift waiting in the parking lot to pick him up and see how his day went. I told him that we were having chicken for dinner and that he would be eating with us and I told him that he would go to bed that night in his nice warm bed in his bedroom that he's personalized. I held him by the shoulders and looked him straight in the eye and I said, "You will never be alone kiddo."

His door closed and my heart broke for him. He is so wrapped up in fear that he's freezing himself out of all of the real possibilities for his future that having a job means. I expect today will be worse than yesterday and I will try again today to help him see the truth of what having this job means. Maybe I should be more harsh, maybe I should just tell him that this is life and he better get in and hang on but he just isn't the kind of kid that you do that to. He needs safety, security, reassurance and love and that's all I've got to give him and I will do that until the day he decides he's strong enough to go it alone.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Best News!! But...

I saved this great news for today to start your day. Yesterday afternoon Thomas got the call from the place that he applied at and...

HE GOT THE JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How cool is that??

Such a proud young man emerged from his room after the call and came straight to me and told me that they had called and told him that he had the job. I, of course, screamed and grabbed him and hugged him. His smile was priceless as he told me what they wanted him to wear his first day (dress casual) and he will begin this new journey on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

You guys, this is just amazing and I am the world's proudest mom right now! It was this time last year that he was very depressed and suicidal and headed into his first hospitalization for suicidal ideation and I was brokenhearted wondering about him and his safety and today here he is, an employed young man!!

Then hours later as I was getting ready to go to bed I stopped by his room and as he got off of his bed to come give me a hug goodnight, I could see that there was something wrong, very wrong, with him. He was shaking and he grabbed me and hugged me and he was vibrating, shaking and fearful. His eyes were wide and he was breathing shallowly and asked me if he could take one of his anti-anxiety pills. I could see something was up and I followed him into the kitchen and helped him get his pill and stood by as he solemnly took it. He turned to me and said to me, "I need to talk to you in the morning." I pressed him a little bit for an answer about what was wrong and he said he would talk to me first thing tomorrow. He looked over my shoulder at his step-dad and looked nervous and he hugged me again and went back to his room. I asked him if he was going to be ok to sleep tonight and he said he thought he would be but I could hear trepidation in his voice. I reluctantly said goodnight, gave him one more hug, and went to bed.

Once in bed I was reminded of the horrible night of his last psychotic break and how he was trapped in his room with nowhere to go and no one to save him from himself and the monster that haunted him and I grabbed my phone and texted him.

"You can always text me in the middle of the night or call if you need to." I wrote. "My phone is always on. I love you soooooooo much kiddo. Try to get some rest. "

His response?

"Love you to, and I'll try to get some sleep."

I put my phone down and laid there awake running through my mind all of the possibilities of what might be bugging him.

Is it the new job?
Are the monsters back?
Had someone harassed him online?
What, what, what was it??????

So, here I sit this morning filled with mixed emotion because I'm so proud of him about his job but I don't know what is going on in that head of his. If it is anxiety over the new job then we've got today and part of tomorrow to calm him. If it's something else, then what? I'm fighting off emailing his therapist about this but will bide my time until he wakes up this morning.

Poor kid. He is given the most amazing opportunity, something he's been waiting for for ages and he just isn't able to enjoy it.

As it stands right now, we have GREAT NEWS about his potential in the world of employment but it is tempered with some unknown, to me, anxiety and fear. I hope that it's the job because I know I can help him through that, even if it means I wait all afternoon in the parking lot on his first day at work if it'll make him feel better. Whatever it is, I want to ensure his success in life and will stand by his side, hugs at the ready, in order to make that happen for him.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Gamut Of Emotions

Here it is, the morning of Thomas' very first job interview. So many things are running through my head mostly because what Thomas and I are facing is the great unknown. Let me first start by saying that Thomas came out of his room last night to say good night and he was very excited about what lies before him today. He is also very nervous.

That is where a lot of my worries are this morning. He went through a practice job interview yesterday with the job coordinator at the rehab program and he was given a 2 page list of prospective questions that he might be asked and then he had written down his answers to those questions to practice. As we drove home in the car he read them to me, his voice shaky and his speech stuttering. He wants so badly to sail through this interview with flying colors but that "study sheet" was tripping him up. He could barely read through the thing and when we got home I told him to set it aside for a little while and decompress. As all of you with loved ones with schizophrenia know, anything that generates stress is a little beacon light that things are potentially about to go horribly wrong. I'm so thankful that the interview is today and not a week from now because I think his stress level would skyrocket if he were left to rehash that paper over and over.

Today I will practice with him a little bit and mostly I'll give him hugs and words of encouragement. I want so badly for him to be successful both in the interview and in any job he might get.

Which brings me to my biggest fear of all. Discrimination. He will come into this job under the umbrella of the job rehab program so they'll know right up front that he has a disability but I'm not certain they know what one. I had a talk with Thomas yesterday about how the law states that he doesn't have to reveal his disability and that it's probably not a good idea to since the word "schizophrenia" has such negative connotations and tends to scare people who don't know any better. It killed me to have that talk because, as you know, I'm out here on the front lines trying to educate people and hopefully change their minds about schizophrenia. Having to hide, having to have Thomas hide, really makes me mad at society. Schizophrenia is a part of who he is and is nothing to be ashamed of and here I was counseling him to keep his mouth shut about it. It goes against the grain of who I am but at this point, after my talk with him, I leave it in the hands of my higher power to make sure that Thomas handles things well and/or that if he says something that the manager will look past it and see this beautiful, nervous, faltering young man who really needs a job to make his life better, to give it some meaning.

No mom out there, unless your child has a disability, has to worry about that element of the job interview and hopefully the hiring. The fear and concern is real. Right now I'm looking around inside my mind wondering just where this day will go. There are just so many unknowns and with Thomas walking into this interview today nervous and unable to pull up the right words because his mind is spinning is adding to the anxiety I feel as his mom. I guess what I have left is my calm, my words of encouragement, plenty of hugs and compliments about how handsome he looks in his dress clothes and tie--which reminds me I need to teach him how to polish his shoes this morning.

So, today I ask of all of you, will you say a prayer for Thomas or send some positive energy his direction or cross your fingers or do whatever your belief system allows? I want every possible advantage enacted for him for this big milestone.

His interview is at 11am PST. As soon as I can, after the interview, I'll post an update and let you know how it went from Thomas' perspective. Please let it go well.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Racing Against The Clock

Since Thomas was in the place he was yesterday it was an opportunity to talk to him about what is going on in his head. I don't think I'm being subtle anymore with my questioning but we made a deal in therapy that I could say to him that I wanted to ask 'x' amount of questions and that he would have to answer those without getting frustrated. We also agreed that when he did get frustrated that he could tell me that he was done answering questions but he had to do it in a nice way. I think he really liked the idea of being able to cut me off when he wanted and I, then, began to realize that I needed to be very thoughtful and concise about my questions so that I could get enough information to have a window on his world.

Yesterday he was kind enough to carry on a few conversations with me throughout the day and I learned a few things. Since his hallucinations are at an all-time low I thought I'd learn more about the delusions. Specifically I wanted to talk about what I had learned in therapy. You see, we have been digging for weeks into the source of his delusions and have found some. His therapist drew up a sort of flow chart of their evolution and then asked him if he believed these things on the chart to be true. He did but changing them will be a whole different story.

Delusions are very interesting to me because, at least for Thomas, they come from traumas and anxieties and grow into these massive delusional worlds that are unshakable. It's heartbreaking to me because he's come to deal with things in this manner and I hate that the schizophrenia is the culprit. I've had traumas and anxieties in my life and never have they led to the places Thomas' do. Schizophrenia is a nasty little illness that robs Thomas from normal coping and resolution and it isn't fair. It just isn't fair.

He had told me a few months ago that one of the reasons that he fights to keep his delusions is because he doesn't know what to put in their place if he were to give them up. This seems fair, in theory. People find all kinds of ways of coping with things by over eating or hoarding or alcohol or good old fashioned avoidance. To me, TO ME, these have always seemed like treatable coping mechanisms especially in light of what I have witnessed with Thomas' delusions. There will be no rehab, no professional organizer to toss out the trash and sell the over-accumulated belongings, no Over-Eaters Anonymous, only a therapist and a mom trying different angles to chip away at something that according to Thomas yesterday, isn't going anywhere anytime soon and unfortunately seems to be feeding on itself and getting worse.

I did ask him yesterday if we could come up with something that could take the place of the delusions would he then be willing to give them up. In his wonderful, sweet way he said he would but then turned dark and said that he didn't know how that would happen and in all honesty he really just doesn't want to give them up at all.

So, then I think to myself, how on earth am I going to come up with something to take their place? My mind doesn't even go to the places his does, let alone it can't seem to come up with anything more healthy and perhaps clever to put in their place. He's so entrenched in his thoughts and they're wound around so many aspects of his life that it seems to me that untangling them will be tantamount to trying to achieve world peace. According to him, while they sometimes scare him to death, on the flip side they offer him great comfort and sometimes even pleasure. How can I take that away from him?

We, his therapist and I, have our work cut out for us. We are racing against a clock, in which the batteries powering it are schizophrenia. I have had successes in catching fledgling delusions in the making and stopping them but these fixed ones that have been around since he was 12 seem nearly impossible and are always being added to and reinforced. Racing that clock is the plan and it will only be time that will reveal what success will be had.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Meds Left Behind

There's a strange feeling that runs through me when I discover, like I did yesterday, that Thomas has forgotten to take his medication. I know it's not going kill him but it does make me stop for a second and think.

I'm working at trying to teach Thomas about life away from home. Granted he still lives under my roof but I'm trying to give him things to do around the house (
like take care of the laundry for example) and teach him what it really means to pay bills, the kind that roll in and you struggle to pay one as you wait for your paycheck to come through. He has a lot to learn but he's getting the idea. He points to houses and says he wants to buy one and I tell him what it means to go through the process of getting a mortgage and then pay it every month, not to mention the upkeep which I think is an important lesson because you don't think when your 18 about how the wind might come through and rip off your roofing and you'll need cash to pay for that or the pipes might break and you'll have to place a middle of the night call to grumpy plumber who is also demanding cash on the spot.

So when I've seen that the most crucial responsibility he has right now, he has not done, then I wonder if he's really ready for the big bad world. I have watched him lately and he's fallen into a sort of zone where he seems lost in himself, irritated by any interruptions and anti-social. All of that coupled with forgetting to take his meds gives me pause. It's such a tightrope he walks between sanity and insanity. Those little pills still in the meds box are a glaring reminder of that. If I were to turn him loose in the world right now and he were dealing with the stressors of being an adult and on top of that completely forgetting his meds then he would be right back in a very bad place.

It's funny, I want to so badly for him to feel like an adult, get a job and his step dad wants him out of the house yesterday (don't get me started on that) but I'm scared for him and his future. Admittedly I've always been a bit of an overprotective parent and I work daily on letting go of things in an effort to be less "mommy" and more "hey there mom, I've missed you because I've been out living my life" but it's not easy especially when his mood is dark and his meds remain in the case instead of in his blood doing their work.

A completely missed day of meds and then another day where I needed to remind him to take them and my world spins into a bunch of "what-ifs". I'm working on letting go but believe me, I'm keeping an eye on that box because before he becomes a full-on adult, I want to be sure that he's taking his meds, realizes the value of making himself remember and he remains stable for an extended period of time.

I'm asking a lot of a young man new to the illness but more than anything, I want him to be successful in life, have what I have and want to live a life that's all his own, complete with remembering to take his meds.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Job Prospects

One of the conditions of Thomas going through the state program for rehabilitation is that he must look for job prospects. He has been hard at work collecting applications and applying for jobs. He's being very good about getting his end of the bargain done but in my travels the other day I ran into something interesting that stopped me for a minute and made me think.

My dad is now in a long term assisted living facility that is local here and I was sitting with the administrator the other day and she told my mom and I how she hires right out of the organization that Thomas is involved with. I told her my son was going through that organization. She said that she was hiring and went on to say that she has hired many autistic people and people with Aspergers to feed the elderly patients that reside in her facility. She said she had an opening right now. Throughout the conversation I repeatedly told her about how Thomas was looking for a job but she didn't bite until the end of the conversation and that is when it happened.

She first asked me what Thomas' disability was and I told her. This garnered an awkward silence. Then she launched into a bunch of questioning about just exactly what meds he was on which I listed. As I did so, it became very apparent that the picture of Thomas is a little scary when you say words like "antipsychotics" and "antidepressants" among others. That was met with another awkward silence. Luckily my mom filled the space with conversation about how Thomas would work well there and somehow that gave the woman an opportunity to steer the conversation away from hiring.

"What just happened there?" I had to ask my mom later. It really made us think. Given all of the press, given that the word "schizophrenia" has stereotypes and stigma attached, given that most people don't want to touch either of those with a 10 foot pole, I had to wonder, is that lady is afraid to hire Thomas because he has schizophrenia?

For those of you with loved ones with schizophrenia do you ever wonder about discrimination because for the first time, after having been through that experience, it really makes me wonder. The beauty of Thomas is that he is very open about his illness. Perhaps that's partly because he doesn't fully grasp the gravity of his illness. He knows he's sick. He understands what it means to be sick--how it affects him personally--but I'm not entirely sure he understands society's reaction to him being so candid about his illness. When he does that, I guess I've always just hoped that they would see the wonderful, sweet kid I see and they would accept him. Who am I kidding, right? But what do I do? I don't want him to feel ashamed of himself or his illness because if I tell him he shouldn't talk about it then he would feel that way. Understand, though, that I have told him about society's impression of schizophrenia and he just doesn't seem to care.

So, I don't know. I don't know if he'll get hired somewhere if he continues to talk about having schizophrenia. I know all that Walmart is going to hear is, "this kid's going to go off his meds and shoot up the place because he was forced to offload a truck instead of doing something he'd rather do."

It'll be interesting to see what happens. In the mean time he is still without a job, he sits on his computer all day soaking up all that the internet has to offer to feed his delusions. Not a good thing. There is a bright side to this though. I just looked on his desk and he has written down places that are hiring one of which is a place called "Naughty Or Nice", a local adult video/lingerie store. Yeah, that's perfect for my teenage son who's still learning about girls. I am such a proud mom!

Not! LOL

What I am proud of, though, is that he's trying. He's looking for a job and best of all he is unashamed of who he is and the illness that plagues him. He's in this fight with me and I have some faith that someone will see past his label and hire him for the hard working, sweet, loving person that he is.

I hope so anyway.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Capture The Flag

One of the things that has marked Thomas' improvement in the last few weeks is an increased desire to hang out with friends. Really he's just stuck to one friend and has seen him around this friend's work schedule but at least he has gotten out. He does still spend a lot of time alone though which his meds NP worries about since isolating oneself when you have schizophrenia isn't such a good idea.

The other night a really great thing happened to change that for a few hours. Thomas received multiple texts from different friends inviting him to a game of night time capture the flag. These are good kids with solid families and foundations and some were friends he hadn't interacted with since elementary school.

Thomas came to me and asked me if he could go and knowing that nights out in the dark were terrifying times for him (we'd just had that exact discussion a day or so before) I swallowed the lump of my own fear in my throat and partly feigned and mostly genuinely showed excitement at the prospect of him going out with his friends. I told him, "Yes! You should go!" and he dressed in his simple, cobbled together military garb (delusion based but I won't get into that now) and I gave him a bag of snacks to take with him to share with his friends and off he went into the pitch blackness of the night with all of the monsters it contained.

I was excited. Here I was the mother of a teenager and finally (for only the second time) I got to stay up all night waiting for my kid to come home from a night out. These are the rituals I have missed because Thomas is sick. No nights out, few friends, and no dates. So I waited for him, held onto consciousness (my bed time is usually 8:30pm) and waited expectantly for him to come home.

At 11pm I got a text that he was on his way home and when he arrived I was so happy to see him home unscathed and smiling. I asked him how the night was and he said he had fun so I said I was going to bed now.

He had made it. A night out under the stifling darkness, few stars, threatening storm clouds and God knows what else he thought was out there with him. He was now home safe in bed and he had seen friends he hadn't seen in years and had had a good time.

The next morning I saw him and he was no worse for the wear, or so I thought. He had tripped, torn off a part of a toenail and scraped up the palm of his hand. He was hurting pretty bad and it would have given him a perfect excuse to drop out of the game and find safety inside a lighted home but he had powered through it all just to have some red-blooded teenager fun!

Who won the game of capture the flag was unimportant to me as I had my son who fought the monsters of the dark and made it. To me, he had won the game against schizophrenia and on top of that came away with a smile and some confidence that whatever might be out there didn't get him and he was able to just be a kid for once.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

If Or When

I read somewhere about how you can manifest things in your life by saying things in either of two ways:

"If ___ happens then ____"...


"When ____ happens then ____"

The idea being that if you say "if" that you are not putting your full energy towards manifesting whatever that thing is in your life wherein when you say "when" then it's just a matter of time that it will come to you.

I got to thinking about that today and I wonder how that works when it comes to Thomas' illness. Here's the thing:

Schizophrenia is a chronic illness. It can get better for a while and get worse. The chances that Thomas (for example) will get worse in the coming years are pretty high. I have to wonder, then, when I speak of his future what should I be saying?

"If he gets sick"


"When he gets sick."

If we go with the "laws of attraction" then saying "when he gets sick" means that it will happen. Right? And if this is the case, then I really need to be watching how I talk. Admittedly I've been prone to a little "magical thinking" in my life so pondering whether I should say "if" or "when" when I talk about Thomas' future with schizophrenia is something to not take lightly.

My intuition tells me that we are always working with the "when's" as opposed to the "if's" when it comes to this illness. I guess I'm curious what your thoughts are on this. Do any of you talk about the "if's and/or when's" like I do? Has it ever crossed your mind about the differences between the two?

If you wouldn't mind, post your thoughts in the comments section and let me know how you see this. Is saying "when" dooming our loved ones to a terrible fate or is that just practical thinking?

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Price He Pays

I was so thankful that yesterday included an hour of therapy for Thomas after the night we had as a family. When we went in, his therapist did a review of Thomas' symptoms and then I spoke up about the argument with my husband. I felt it was of importance because of how it affected Thomas. I told the story and before looking down at my folded hands, I caught the wince and the shaking head from his therapist. Even he knew that this had a real potential to wreck things for Thomas. I definitely hadn't misjudged that at all.

I tried to provide as safe a place as I could for Thomas to speak his heart since I was in his therapy with him and so he wasn't alone and it seemed to me that he was able to speak freely.

To his therapist's surprise, and mine too, we discovered through some digging that when things like this happen in Thomas' life, the residual tension--for him--hangs around for another week. His therapist clarified that with him by asking him if his dad and I were loving on each other again would he still feel the tension and he said that in fact, he would.

I was dismayed by the length of the residual on Thomas and felt horrible that he had to live with that far beyond the argument which has blown over by now.

I didn't think in the moment about his pain. I was vehemently defending him and was stuck inside my pain and anger. I just didn't realize the effect it had on him until it was too late. I can't say it enough that no matter the way your loved one manifests schizophrenia, be sure to consider their presence when something emotional is taking place. They are affected so much deeper inside and for longer beyond the event. Thomas says he will live with this, in general, for 5-7 days beyond the actual argument.

Beyond that, Thomas and I had a talk on the way home and I discovered how much his Grandpa's dementia was affecting him. He is scared of him but even more so, scared about if I'll end up that way or if he will end up that way too. He has sat so quietly during the talks about my dad that I was having with various people in my life that I didn't think about the level it was affecting him.

I'm not here to feel sorry for myself and garner sympathy. I am writing because I want you all to think about how seemingly ordinary things affect our loved ones. They are common everyday things and they have far-reaching effects and they must be considered. For me, taking a step back and looking at what I share with him about my life is something I need to do because the price he pays for my cavalier attitude about things in my life is of great importance and needs to be considered from this point forward.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Know Better

My husband and I got in a fight last night.

You know the kind. Both of you are yelling, both of you want to be heard and both of you can't seem to walk away to cool down.

It was about Thomas and how he behaves and his lack of ability to remember to do certain chores and basically it was about his schizophrenia. I'm still reeling from it, I didn't sleep last night and here I sit with a headache and an upset stomach, holding my head in my hands.

But I am ok. My husband is no worse for the wear. But during the fight my very sensitive son stood outside the house listening to us fight and felt trapped outside in the dark and bewildered by the content of the argument. Let's just say that this has been my lowest point as a parent to Thomas in a long time. I failed him miserably last night and more than anything the most damage after the storm is inside my son.

After I asked my husband to get out of the house I went outside to find Thomas. He came inside wide-eyed and I asked a question that I already knew the answer to,

"are you ok?"


He wasn't.

I'm still kicking myself for having done this to him. The thing is, my husband and I rarely fight so when we do, it's an event and everyone suffers for it. But my Thomas, my boy who suffers from schizophrenia, my boy who is sweet and sensitive and scared, suffers the most. I stood there with him and apologized for him having had to witness that and I hugged him over and over and still he stood there, a deer in headlights, a trembling leaf, and finally he asked for one of his lorazepam to calm him down.

How could I have done this to him? One of the things that set off a major psychotic episode in the hospital was 2 strangers fighting on the ward and now here he was witness to his parents fighting in what was meant to be his safe place. I gave him the pill and he retreated to his room.

Needless to say I didn't follow my husband to bed after he returned home so I was up in the living room watching TV. I went in after 20 minutes and asked Thomas is he was ok and if he was going to be ok to sleep and he said he was but then he launched into a frantic rant about how the WiFi wasn't working and he couldn't get his tablet to work and YouTube to load. Then it clicked in. He needed those things because they were his distraction from the encroaching symptoms of his schizophrenia brought on by fear and anxiety.

I invited him out to watch TV with me and we sat together and watched a show. By the time it was over it was late and he said he wanted to go to bed. He stopped by my chair and waited silently for me to get up and give him a hug. I knew it wasn't enough and I told him to please come get me if anything was upsetting him during the night.

Why did I do this? Why did I let my anger and frustration get out of control? Why did I not think sooner, faster, more clearly about its effect on my boy? All I can say it that I am thankful Thomas has therapy today. It is morning now and I sit here waiting for him to get up and I pray he is unscathed from the previous night's events but I know better.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Lost In The Fray

There has been a lot going on in my family lately but thankfully Thomas has not been the center of it. I have been in and out of the house constantly leaving Thomas to be with himself mostly and he has seemed to be fine with all of that but as per usual I misjudged the situation.

This is what happened last year. Last year my dad had just had a stroke, my life was consumed with
caring for him and my mom and Thomas got lost in the fray of it all. He ended up suicidal and I ended up coming home to our local police department in my house. Here it is a year later and it's not a stroke this time but is brain surgery for my dad and here I find myself taking care of my parents and not keeping a close eye on Thomas. Clearly there isn't enough of me to go around and clearly I have to get my act together and learn how to BALANCE my life.

So, I came home yesterday to find Thomas shut in his room, depressed, moody, and not talking much. I knew something was wrong but I had to go again. Luckily for me, sometimes texts have worked for sorting out what's going on with him so I sent him a text and asked him why he was bummed out.

As usual I got my "I don't know" and I pushed a little further and better described what I saw in him and he admitted to feeling depressed. I told him that I loved him and that I'd be home soon and I was coming directly to him for a hug. I got back an "ok" and a smiley face and I was happy that my text therapy had worked.

I really hate how my life has become consumed by crisis after crisis and I hate even more that my reflex is to see my son as a capable 18 year old young man and it makes it easier to leave and yes, sometimes I take my eyes off of him for a second (or a day, or a week...). I hate that in my absence, he gets lost in the fray and ultimately lost inside his mind.

I need to tie a rope to my ankle and to his. Long enough to live our own lives but short enough that when he's falling, I feel the tug and can pull him back to the surface. We are approaching the anniversary of his first hospitalizations and diagnosis and I feel it looming. I'm scared I'm not keeping a close enough eye on him but I'm being forced to make choices that take me away from him for hours in a day.

What was really great yesterday was that I walked in the door and literally dropped everything on the floor and stood there and said:

"I need my hug right now!!"

And a beaming Thomas came over to me, put his arms around me and held on for dear life. There was no place that I would have rather been in that moment and when I went to let go, he grabbed me and held me even tighter. I had no complaint and gripped him even tighter in return because in that moment there was NOTHING getting between he and I, in that moment, he and I were a force to be reckoned with because it is my belief that enough love conquers all.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Silenced Alarm Bells

The other day I took Thomas to his medication appointment. We went in the NP's office and sat down, both Thomas and I quiet. The NP asked Thomas how he was and he said he was doing good. He asked Thomas about his paranoia and he said it was still there. The NP asked if they were scaring Thomas and he said that they weren't too much. Then the NP turned to me and said,

hat's wrong with Mom? She's usually telling on you by now?"

First off, because I hear it so much, why is it that these people refer to me as mom and not by my name? I feel like they're treating Thomas like a child, as if he wouldn't know who I am if the NP called me Melanie. Secondly though, I laughed because it was true, I wasn't saying a word, I wasn't "telling on" Thomas because the truth of the matter is, I have nothing to say because everything is going pretty decently, at least in the world of medications.

The great news is that the antidepressant is working famously and Thomas' trapped feeling and depression have dissipated and he's functioning like a, well, reasonably normal (what is normal again anyway???) person. I see smiles daily, hourly if I'm lucky enough to spend time with him and he's participating in the family again and is no longer stone-faced, slumped on the couch, or locked in a dark bedroom. His curtains in his room get opened every day and beautiful, healing sunshine comes in his room.

For now I have my boy back.

This is not to say that the schizophrenia has disappeared into the mist of the morning sun because those pesky delusions seem to be finding energy also which I'm coming to realize is an unrecorded side-effect of antidepressants but the alarm bells ringing out saying that Thomas is suicidal or on the edge of flipping out have silenced and we're one our feet running now which is good but the goal is to outrun the delusions, at least the creation of new ones.

Thomas is now having many more good days than bad and everyone who sees him sees that in him. I know I'm celebrating a little too much because we aren't out of the woods but c'mon, after everything, after this last year+, I deserve a moment or two of unabashed, out of control, dangerously naïve, celebrating.

We're hardly out of the woods but I see the blue sky at the edge of the forest and for right now, I am happy.

Thomas is happy.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Sometimes All You Have To Do Is Ask

I've been away lately but so much came along with me while I was gone and gave me so much to think about. For starters, I have been doing a lot of reading on CIT's (Crisis Intervention Teams) in lots a communities across the U.S. in place to help people in a mental health crisis. They work as a team alongside the police department and facilitate the mentally ill person's commitment to a mental health facility and they diffuse any situations that might arise between the police and the mentally ill person. It sounded to me like an absolute luxury and thought something like that existing in my small town of country boy type policemen and a lot of sort of back woods thinking about many aspects of life in this town (not from the police necessarily but from other officials in the town) was not going to be a possibility.

I was wrong.

My mom and I went down to the police department the other day to dump off extra prescription drugs we didn't need anymore and I thought about all I'd read and I went up to the window and asked the question I thought I already knew the answer to. What came back surprised me.

As it turns out my back woods, slow to change, limited in their thinking in a lot of ways town, have a crisis intervention team of sorts. I was dumbfounded and formulated my question a couple different ways to see if I got the same answer and the answer continued to come back a "yes".

What we have is a small group of officers who went through hours of training to handle the mentally ill. I said,

"Well, that's great but are they going to give someone in the middle of a mental health crisis a chance before they start drawing guns and doing threatening things?"

The lady assured me that they were no matter how I came at her with questions about what it would be like in a volatile situation. I envisioned Thomas scared and angry and shouting about his delusions and I pictured the police "shooting first and asking questions later" and when directly asked about that she said that she was confident that the officers were trained for situations like that.

Honestly, I was shocked. Completely shocked. I never in a million years thought that we would have something like that. She went on to tell me that when I called the police department that I needed to immediately fill them in on what was going on with Thomas, his diagnosis, his behavior, his fears, his delusions and they would treat Thomas with as much caring and respect as they could while taking him in to custody if needed or diffusing the situation if that was all that needed.

The moral of the story here is this. I didn't think we would have something so forward-thinking in my town and all it took was a trip to the police station and some well thought out questions and scenario's to find out that in fact they had the very thing that I wanted. So what I want to impart to all of you is to ASK. Go down to your police department personally. Show your face, the love and concern for your loved ones. Ask direct questions and be respectful of them. I think a lot of your will be like me, surprised at the end result.

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