This is an open and honest post by my wife Kristin. In the post, she chronicles our struggles with our oldest son, who suffers from mental illness. Our hope is that any parent reading this, who deals with this with their own child, will find hope and comfort, and a voice.
I’m perched on the edge of our outdated plaid love seat, watching the scene before me. I glance away for a minute and inspect my bare feet. I make a mental note that my toenails are an embarrassment. Then I laugh, but only in my head. Pedicures are the least of my concerns these days. I allow my mind to drift from the present. I begin to tick off a list of the most recent embarrassments, heartbreaks, fears, and crushing grief stricken moments of this year.
I stretch one bruised leg, and then the other. He’s gotten stronger. I feel a scratch on my cheek. Is that from this morning? I wonder. I can’t gauge what is normal. I hear my children’s laughter coming from the other room where they are locked safely away, sharing a pizza. One child says, “It’s a party!” Another wants to know when he can say hi to the police. The security cameras we’ve installed capture everything. They run all the time. No one even thinks about them anymore.
We follow a safety plan seamlessly, but are we really safe? Are we really living? I snap back into focus. The officer wants to talk to me. I’m ready for battle. They never understand mental illness anyway. Someone will probably hand him a sticker and pat him on the back. That’s usually what they do. He is 10 after all, and cute as a button. As I sneak a look at him, head down, tiny frame slouching, I feel it too. Disbelief. Someone so small could never have done this much damage.
The officer and I step outside to talk while two more stand guard over my son. He’s telling me that he sees the safety plan and how hard we’ve worked to keep our son at home. He’s telling me that he understands Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He knows that the brain damage isn’t my son’s fault. He also understands that we won’t allow him to use his disability as an excuse. For the first time, someone has seen my greatest shame and isn’t judging me or my son. He wants to help…and I actually believe him. “No one is going to press charges this time.” he says. I’m glad.
“He is going to the hospital to be admitted to acute care.” I’m relieved. The officer has offered to transport him. It’s up to me. For just a moment, my mind drifts to the days when my husband and I first adopted him. I remember him clinging to me. My sweet, hurting baby. Then I allow myself to imagine the future and I know it’s time to help him face reality. It’s time to help him turn this around. I ask the officer to take him. “I’ll follow you.” I say.
My son turns away from me as I tell him the consequence. I see that he feels the shame I feel. Tears trickle down his cheeks. I long to wrap him up in my arms and make this all go away. I know I can’t so I squeeze his hand. He looks me in the eye as we stand to leave. “I know I need help mom. I’m going to turn this around,” he says. I kiss his forehead. “I know you will,” I say, “You’re better than this.”
From the doorway, the walk down the driveway looks long. I see the curtains in other windows shift as neighbors pretend not to see. I fight the urge to shrink into the safety of my home. I won’t hang my head any longer. The Lord snatched my son from the fire once. It is by His mercy that my son was saved from a life of domestic violence, malnutrition and neglect.
It is only because of the precious gift of God that I get to be my son’s second mother. I choose to raise my head high because I know that fighting for my son and my family is my greatest responsibility. I squeeze my son’s hand one more time. Then He and I bravely cross the threshold, facing our shame, and stepping into the light.