My nightmares are vivid when I dream about the day my son almost ended his life. He had been arguing with his father about some issue I don’t remember, but probably over his father’s poor choice of girlfriends in his life. He had been struggling on the football team to get his position just right and coaches were harassing him. He’d been really distant, unlike ever before. This had been going on for a week or so. We had just returned from a family therapy session at school, one of the last ones we’d have, since he was due to mainstream soon, putting an end to family therapy. I’m sure he was nervous about that too, in hindsight I’m sure of it. But these issues, always pervasive in our home, especially since my eldest son stopped taking out the garbage, started with a gentle request. Why gentle? If you struggle from bipolar disorder, you’ll know what I’m talking about. But, the gentleness of this request came after years where I’ve been walking on eggshells with my son. He once punched me in the mouth, overturned the large metal mobile basketball hoop and crushed my car windshield, due to his anger. I knew he was fragile on this day, especially after our therapy session. So the request was kind, I didn’t want an explosive reaction.
“Can you please take out the garbage?”
No answer came, so I knocked on his barely opened door. He shoved it closed and yelled for me to stay out. This worried me, so I kept talking and then he opened the door, ran outside and down the street. I stared outside. We’d been here before and I knew he’d come home, he’d always come home and would apologize, we’d talk for hours, argue, air our differences and then ultimately hug and then call it a night. Both exhausted.
Tonight, … he did return. He opened the door and approached me, standing over me sweating and apologized, “Mom, I took my pills, I don’t feel so good, mom I’m so sorry. I’m scared.”
He was covered in sweat, clammy to the touch and my heart dropped. I grabbed my keys, took hold of him and rushed him into the car, to take him to emergency. I didn’t think of the psychiatric questions then. I cared about his life. They took us in, talked to me and then talked to him separately. They made him swallow charcoal to vomit up the pills.
I waited and worried. You see, my son had been doing really well. He’d not had any episodes for quite some time and I knew he didn’t mean to do this. He was angry with his father, disappointed at his performance in football. But, tomorrow, the day after this event, well, an ultimately important day for him. His team was to play in the divisional championships. I knew him missing this day would be the greatest disappointment, especially since he’d worked so hard to get his starting position back again. He had to come home with me. Especially since he missed football practice, since I had to rush him to the hospital. My insides were a wreck for my son and I worried about him, grateful he lived and didn’t die. But, also I worried about the psychological effects of missing his football game and everything he’d been working so hard to achieve. So, when they asked me about this night, I lied. I told them I’d been counting my son’s pills and also had a pile of his pills out for him to take. He took a handful of the wrong pile. You know, because he’s such a distracted kid. He never pays full attention and this was something he inevitably could do. The psychiatrist on duty had to call two other therapists and psychiatrists we’d been working with over the past months. Finally then believed me and let him go, but only to a 24 hour Psychiatric holding facility, where I had to wait for them to test him and determine if he could leave.
We made it home at 2 a.m. and he got up the next day, went to school and played in the divisional game, which they lost. But, he got to play and this really made him feel confident. His coach backed off and congratulated him.
I’m grateful for my son and elated he didn’t end his life. This was one night inside of five, where he attempted to take his life.