Monday, February 23, 2015

The Long Road To Recovery

Last night I stood with Thomas as he waited for me to give him his pills. It was Sunday night which meant that his weekly pill case needed filled. I put two types into his cup and then picked up the Cymbalta and looked at the bottle absentmindedly. I was curious, for some reason, what the commercial name was for Cymbalta since the pill bottle just said Duloxetine. On the bottom in little print it said Cymbalta and a flood of emotion came over me. It's the Cymbalta that has done it. It is the Cymbalta that has brought stability to Thomas's life and really to our family's life.
I put my arm around Thomas and I said,

"I am so glad that you are doing better. The last three years have been hell for you and I can't believe we are standing here, now, in this place where things are almost normal and you are doing well."

He agreed that it had been hell and was also thankful for the break from it all.

We talked about the medications and how each one had changed something for him and how all together they had turned him into this stable young man standing next to me. I looked at the Cymbalta and it was the Cymbalta that I credited for the change.

Before it came into our lives, stability was fleeting. We'd have a few weeks, at best, here and there but we could never quite hold onto stability. Staring at the Cymbalta bottle I felt emotional because we had just had a nice day with his grandma and Thomas had participated in most of it--when he wasn't playing video games on his Nintendo DS--and for once in I don't know how long, if ever, he had actually been a part of the family. He sat and listened as we all talked about mental illness in our family and we went back through time and how, for him, his whole journey had begun with his trichotillomania (hair pulling) and a call to a Dr. K. I didn't know and wondered if he would be able to help Thomas. We talked about how we had seen other family members miss the burgeoning signs of mental illness and we thanked God that I had acted immediately when I had discovered Thomas's trichotillomania. The truth is, at the time, when I found that first chunk of hair on his bedroom floor, we had already been through so much with him. So many signs had been missed, being chalked up to typical preteen and teenage behavior, because I didn't know any better but with the trichotillomania it all couldn't be ignored anymore. Thomas was struggling and what ensued was a descent into schizophrenia that for years we didn't know if we'd ever get him back from it.

Thomas talked last night about how his meds had helped him. He stood beside me thankful for them and I knew in that moment he fully understood how important his meds are. I told him that I didn't want him to ever go back through the hell of the last few years and he said he never wanted to go back there either. As just a mom and as a mom of a son diagnosed with one of the most debilitating mental illnesses on the planet, I was grateful for that moment with him where clarity gave us vision into the past, the present and the future. He had spent years afraid, anxious, paranoid, delusional and hallucinating and in that moment last night it seemed like all of it had been a very bad dream.

I finished filling his cup with meds and he began taking each one one at a time and he went to his room leaving me standing in the low-lighted kitchen returning multiple bottles of pills to the bag that I store them all in and keep under lock and key.

He, then, came back out to me and he said that he agreed that along with me he had also seen signs of someone close to us caught in a deep depression and even appearing suicidal. He had seen it just as I had and we both felt worried about the fate of this person close to us. In my memory I thought about the time that Thomas had been threatening suicide and I thought about how that had been a catalyst for his first hospitalization followed quickly by his second that yielded a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Missing the signs of a suicidal teenager had been a mistake that I wouldn't make and here I was, standing with my stable young man, thanking God that he stood before me reaching out for a hug.

It's been a long road that brought us to last night and my peering at a bottle of Cymbalta finding relief that things are the way they are right now. I know it's not over, I know that schizophrenia is still there but in many ways, after last night, it's become a distant memory, one that I am happy to put in the past. As I sit here this morning I wonder to myself,

"What will the years ahead bring? What has been laid out, predetermined, or created by God for Thomas's future? Have we been given a priceless gift that, if nurtured, will remain for a long time or are there years ahead with another fight for his sanity?"

Who's to say exactly. Nothing is promised with the illness other than statistics and countless experiences of others who walk this path and are struggling or who live a stable life. The promise lies in the fact that we just never know what will come next but for me, for Thomas, for now, we are thankful for this moment of peace in an otherwise chaotic life of mental illness.

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