Thursday, March 15, 2012

sometimes no means yes

For the longest time, being an adult meant buying Cap'n Crunch cereal. And then it was NOT buying Cap'n Crunch cereal. Taking my sons on vacations - just the three of us. And then taking myself on a vacation without them. Buying my first vehicle on my own with my own money (I still miss that Jeep).

But the moment that changed me, even after so many other emergencies and upsets and breakthroughs and aha moments, that definitive moment is one I hope I never have to revisit.

The previous 18 hours are a bit of a blur, but the moment itself is clear.

The night before, The Oldest had called me at midnight just as I was getting into bed. All I could make out between the sobs was

'I'm such a loser, Mom, I couldn't even do this right.'

He'd tried to hang himself, it seemed, from the rafter in my parents' garage. He'd been living with them to try to get himself straightened out, but while they were on holidays he was alone with his demons and couldn't fight any more.

While we were still on the phone I got back into my clothes, grabbed my keys, and headed to my car. I let him off the line when my niece had him chatting online. My sister kept me company via cell phone on the 90 minute drive, at least until I hit an ill-named 'dead' spot.

He was dressed in his best clothes. All of his belongings had been neatly packed in boxes, and he'd spent the day cleaning the condo so his grandparents wouldn't have to deal with that when they got home. And he was staggering drunk, by the time I got in the door. He'd found his solace, as always, in substance.

I could see the chain mark on his neck, and it took everything in me not to scream, or cry or break. I thought that was the strongest I'd need to be. It wasn't.

He told me what he'd been dealing with. Named some of his demons. Said he would be better if I could just take him home. I considered calling the police, the hospital, a help line. But he promised he'd be okay that night if I'd just take him home.

And so we slept. Fitfully. Fully clothed. For a couple hours. And in the morning we came home and showered. And then I said "we have to go to the hospital. This is not something I can do alone."

He agreed, sort of. We have a fast-track emergency psychiatric services ward at our nearest hospital, so we gave that a try. Whisked through triage and into the ward. And then the waiting. He had an interview with a nurse. And then more waiting. An interview with a social worker. And then more waiting.

People on and off various medications and in various planes of reality circled about, shuffling, muttering, smelly. We tried to stay as far away from them as possible. On the balcony. In the end chairs. One woman was sleeping in a reclining chair. She'd been there a while.

The Oldest had a meeting with a psychiatrist. I had a meeting with a social worker. The psychiatrist and social worker met together. And then the question to me alone in that lifeless room:

"He says he'll be okay going home. Do you agree."

The Oldest had been angry since the moment he saw the locks on the door, since we'd had to be buzzed in in the first place. He'd withrdrawn more and more as we talked to strangers, as he tried to avoid the 'crazy people,' as he realised this was not going to be 'just take me home.'

I sat at the table, looking at these two strangers. Looking at the bars on the windows and the institutional table.

At first I could only shake my head. And then I took a deep breath. And I did the grown up thing - I said no. They needed to keep him there. He needed more help than I could give him.

The Oldest wouldn't speak to me when we came out of the room. I knew that being in a locked facility was the worst kind of hell for him. When he finally did speak, it was a mixture of condemnation and pleading - how could I do this to him? He'd be fine. He just needed me and his friends. Why didn't I understand?

I said I loved him. Made sure he'd have a bed in a private room and not be expected to sleep in a chair. I got as far as my car before I couldn't breathe or see.

I miss my naive self. I miss my innocent boy. I miss all the ways we were before all this shit became our reality. And if I have to, I know I will make the hard call again. And again. And every time I have to to keep him alive.
Scintilla Day 2:

When did you realise you were a grown up? What did this mean for you? Shock to the system? Mourning of halcyon younger days? Or the embracing of the knowledge that you can do all the cool stuff adults do: drink wine, go on parent-free vacations, eat chocolate without reprimand?


  1. Wow. Yeah. I think you're more of a grownup than I might ever be.

  2. Hi Allison - I hope you never have to be that grown up. And I meant that in the best possible sense. :)

  3. oh god, what a moment - i suppose though, that it is a defining one, to have to make that kind of decision. i hope it's bringing you some peace to tell these stories here.

  4. Thanks, Dominque. It has taken me a year to get to this place. The war continues for My Son, but at least I have this. And the listening hearts that read it.

  5. You know you did what had to be done and there's nothing else you could have done. Anything else and this may be a completely different post. Love the honesty.

  6. Thank you, Jason. I did do what I had to do. And I'd do it again in a hearbeat. :)