We invited our son, who has a mental illness, to a birthday dinner. I knew it would be difficult–even if everything went well–because being with him sometimes exacerbates my own illness of depression. When I look at him, I see the type of person I probably would have avoided on the street in years past. Now I am forced, trying every which way, to cope with a situation I find beyond my limited capacity.
There was a time, even after he became ill, when I held out hope that he could have a future; maybe not the one I envisioned when he was a child, but still a worthwhile one, with a job and possibly even a family. After last year’s debacle, I have lost that last remaining golden bubble. Making it worse, I also realize that a large part of the problem lies with me; I can’t let go of what was, who he was.
I still see a bright child than the handsome young adult he became until tragedy struck. I want that person back, the one so smart he could answer a question before it was asked. He tells me he is happy, and I am glad for him, but I miss the old version so much.
Many years ago, before I even had children, I read an autobiographical book titled This Stranger, My Son. It was about a family with two sons, the oldest of whom had schizophrenia. Ha! Some joke. If I only knew …
Recently, I mentioned to a parent, also dealing with a similar situation, that I could envision abandoning my son. Her reaction, while not horror, was concern. You see Sam does not accept that he needs medication, and two times I had to go through the court system to get him help. This is something I cannot do again even though I believe I saved him from being hit by a truck. No, not a real truck, but something comparable, such as jail or death. For the sake of our relationship, however, I swore to him that I wouldn’t repeat what he considers an intrusion into his life.
Over dinner he told me that he will stop his meds at some point, and I even understand his reasoning since they come with serious side effects. On the other hand, I have seen him when he is off his meds, and it is not a pretty sight. He becomes unrecognizable, a person who can barely put a sentence together and talks to “God” on the phone. He becomes angry, furious even, over issues which he normally would find of little consequence. I know I cannot survive that scenario again, so my choices are suicide or abandonment. He still has another two years until his court-ordered treatment ends so I have time to prepare for whatever may come.
I know other parents who have abandoned their kids; I understand. Everyone has a breaking point, and sometimes what life throws our way is too much to bear. I am not at that place yet, and if I’m lucky providence will intervene before I ever get there. But hope is not a part of the picture anymore, and I haven’t found a substitute.