“It’s ok, Mrs X, we’ll take good care of him. I always tell people, if my family members ever needed this kind of help, I wouldn’t hesitate to admit them here.”
Outside the small office, an alarms sounds, and the kind counselor quietly excuses herself. She opens the door and says to those on the floor, “It’s not us, we’re safe in here.”
At this point the reality was setting in, the tears broke free from my eyelids and fell quietly into my lap.
“We’re here to help him,” she said.
One month ago, I was anxiously puttering around my house, overjoyed at the prospect of my soon to be delivered washer and dryer. I was planning out the laundry loads in my head, all to prepare us for our family vacation, just a few days away. My heart was soaring.
The phone rang. “Don’t panic,” he said, “but you might want to sit down.”
In one phone call, at a time when everything seemed to feel right with the world, my world changed. The long and short of it was that my son had an epic panic attack. He asked a friend to take him to the ER. While there, he said some terrifyingly sad things about not wanting to live any more.
I sat with him for 2 days in a tiny ER room. Nothing on the walls, only a portable stretcher and a rocking chair. I had brought him a book and we shared my iPad back and forth. We talked about his sister, his friends, our family. He slept and I watched him, much like the days when he was just an infant. When he was tiny, he’d lay there in those little footed sleepers, and I just watch his chest move up and down as he slept. The rise and fall was different now, more pronounced. And this time, he was in scrubs on suicide watch.
His stay in the hospital is another story for another day. Because in the scary and dark corners were brilliant displays of love and light. The first full day he was there, he met with a child psychologist. He was diagnosed with ADHD (already known and treated), but also Oppositional Defiant Disorder. In my brain, I had diagnosed him with this 100 times, my heart didn’t want it to be true. It was…it is.
I left that day and purchased two books on my kindle. One about ADHD, one about ODD. I read them voraciously. I took notes. I made a decision. I cleaned his room, top to bottom. I found lighters, blades and knives. I threw them away. I took all his dark, sad clothes. I built him a room filled with light and love. I cleaned out his music stash. Only light and happy music. On his first day home, I made him cut his hair. I told him I loved him every hour. I told him to trust me…these things would make a difference.
Last night he told me, “I may not like the decisions you make in the moment that you make them, but I’m beginning to be able to see why they’re good for me.” Last night we talked about the future, his relationship with his dad, the fear and overwhelming love that his sister and I felt when we cleaned out his room. Last night he told me he was thankful for all of it.
A month ago, my life changed. My parenting style in four short weeks, is noticeably different and surprisingly the same. I learned how to talk, no really communicate, with my teenager. I learned just how strong my 10 year old daughter is. I learned that life is precious and even the thought of losing a child is devastating to your soul.
And I learned that I am the best mother for my children. I learned that love truly is enough. And I learned that you’re never done learning.
One month later, I have a strong, responsible, helpful 14 year old. He has plans for the future. He openly talks about his feelings. He loves his sister and is frustrated by her normal “little sister” attitude, because he FEELS so much more. One month later, I have my son back.