Saturday, May 09, 2015
The Cold, Hard Truth In The Stark Light of Day (Part 2)
In a really big way this is a very hard post to write. Ever since all of this stuff about Thomas moving out with these 4 other kids and a baby and then the ensuing conversation with Thomas, I have felt very sad. I think we all know about schizophrenia and its effects on the brain and how it manifests in each of our loved ones. I also think we all know the grief we feel about it all especially when we're faced with the truth and that we sometimes push it away from our consciousness in an effort to try to forget about it all for just a little bit. Unfortunately for me, pushing it all away was impossible for me on Thursday and between Thomas and I, we were hit with a wrecking ball named schizophrenia.
In part one I told you about what led up to what I'm going to write about today. I wrote about how Dr. K. and I confronted Thomas with some questions about his independence and I wrote about the kids' plans to move out. Today I will tell you about the living conditions and then the conversation I had with Thomas after seeing the house.
When I pulled up in front of the house, I could see that it was very small. There was no way that 5 people were going to fit into it unless everyone shared a bedroom or two. There would have been no privacy and no place for Thomas to escape to. When Jon came down to give us a tour, the occupants didn't answer the door so we wandered the property outside and I asked Jon questions about the place. As we walked into the back yard, Jon pointed to what amounted to a shed and told me that that was a bedroom and that was where he and Thomas would live. I asked if there was a bathroom in there and he said no and that there was only one bathroom on the entire property. This meant that Thomas would have to leave the building in the middle of the night and go into the other house to use the bathroom. That would never happen. I had Thomas also check to see if there was air conditioning in the shed and he wandered around it and found nothing. That was when Jon told me they'd get a fan. Our summers can reach up to 110 degrees and after living without air conditioning at various points in my life, I knew that no fan was going to cool that shed in the summer (not to mention there was no heating in the place either). That pretty much sealed the whole thing for me in terms of making the decision for sure that this place was not a good place for Thomas.
When we got in the car, Thomas asked me what I thought of the place. I sat there next to him in silence trying to swallow the lump in my throat and calm the knot in my stomach. I was mad about the situation and I was mad that I would have to tell Thomas this wasn't the right situation for him. So I said to him,
"Do you want me to tell you the truth?"
He did and so I began talking. I told him about how the living conditions were utterly wrong for him and that there was no way I wanted him to move in there. I explained to him many things that living in that manner meant for him and his illness. I finally unleashed everything that had been building up in me for days.
Then came the hard part, the part I never ever want to utter to Thomas but that he needed to hear. I told him that I feared he wouldn't take his meds and that just as bad, since some of his meds are controlled substances, that they were in danger of being stolen by these kids and sold or abused. Thomas countered that by telling me he'd get a safe. C'mon now. No. With everything I said, he had a counterpoint to it and I thought that there was no way I was going to get through to him.
We pulled in the driveway and I kept the car running and I began the hardest talk I think I have ever had with Thomas. I told him that I worried that the stress of living like this would cause relapse. I told him that with every relapse his brain would be damaged even more and I feared that if he spent too long in psychosis that I would never get him back from it. I told him how sorry I was that I had to tell him all of the realities I had already told him and was about to tell him.
I asked him if he had remembered his last serious psychotic break and how he had sat in his room for hours crying from the crippling fear of Slender Man coming in to kill him and how when I was finally able to get him to leave the house, he walked from the house to the car huddled as if something was going to come from the sky and crush him. He didn't remember. I told him that if that situation happened again and I wasn't there to care for him and get him safely to the hospital that he would be virtually alone trying to keep from falling apart completely. I told him that his friends didn't understand his illness and wouldn't understand the gravity of what was taking place if he had a psychotic break.
I went on to tell him that he didn't have the same concept as I did of how his illness has affected him. I told him that I had watched for years as he moved in and out of psychosis and how, even now, he wasn't out of it completely. He admitted that he still felt watched and that he believed that he was going to be arrested and taken away. I told him that because I had seen all of these years how he had been affected by schizophrenia I had a complete understanding of how it manifests in him and I could safely assume from past experiences that the future held similar experiences for him. I told him that he had not been stable long enough to even begin to consider moving out. Remember, it was just a month ago that I left for Seattle and he had a psychotic break and since then he has not fully recovered.
We talked again about his memory and his inability to take care of basic needs in life like remembering to do laundry or take a shower or do other housework that he's supposed to have done every week for years and he still doesn't do them unless he's reminded. I told him that living on his own meant remembering to take care of himself in all ways because I wouldn't be around to help. I told him that going into this living situation would be a "trial by fire" and I asked him if he knew what that meant.
I explained to him that if I were to set him free to move out to these conditions that it would be like throwing him into the center of a battlefield without any armor to protect him and no weapons with which to defend himself. To be fair, he did bring up a good point. He said,
"How do I know how I'm going to do out in the world because you provide me with this cushion and the only way I'm going to know if I can make it is if I get away from this cushion."
He was right. I do provide a safe cushion but I do it for a reason though I admit that it's probably a bit much.
I told him that I would stop providing such a luxurious cushion and that if he wanted to move towards independence that he would have to pick up doing things that he hasn't done very much of, if at all. We committed to try to expedite his independence in the coming weeks but moving out was not going to happen. Not now and not into this particular situation in a shed with no heating, air conditioning, bathroom or safe space to escape when things get rough for him.
Throughout the conversation I could see him seething as he stared straight ahead and tapped his foot. I told him as the conversation was finishing up that it was okay if he wanted to hate me and if he was mad at me. I told him that I could take it and that when things settled we would be okay. He then said to me,
"I don't hate you."
and he got out of the car and walked to the back door.
I brought in the trash cans and came to unlock the door and we went inside. This was not the end of the conversation because as the evening wore on, he came to me with how he could make things easier for me to let him move out. On Monday I will share what transpired that evening.
By the time we had reached the back door, I felt like the world's worst person having just stated the realities of his illness. So much more was said to him about schizophrenia and how it affects him but I can't possibly get it all down here in a post. That evening I walked in that door with Thomas and my heart was heavy with sadness. I didn't want to have to tell him the truth about his illness but I had sheltered him for long enough. He needed to know these things and unfortunately there was no other way and no more perfect opportunity to tell him.
This illness is cruel and unfair and unfortunately it made itself known to us once again and in spectacular fashion. We couldn't avoid the truth any longer.
Written by Melanie Jimenez
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