For the past 3 1/2 months everything revolved around our son. His therapist, psychologist, and psychiatric appointments. His self harm, crisis intervention teams, and hospitalizations. His hand crafted daily schedule, his medications, and his school.
Then in the last 3 weeks a flurry of decisions, hours of phone calls, piteous pleadings to any official who had the bad luck to answer the phone, anxious texts at all hours of the day, and fitful nightmare filled nights.
Then came the fast, intense feeling of peace. Which was quickly followed by the drop to your knees guilt.
Now there is just silence and an empty void. I had been parenting like I was on fire and now the fire is gone. Leaving behind a burned out shell, a blackened and charred ghost of the structure it was. Oh how I wish that fire could have destroyed the memories and events that have caused our family such pain. But our most intense memories cling to us no matter the devastation we survive.
Objects and tangible items were not lost in this blaze, but hope was.
Now I begin the tiresome process of finding new hope. I have done this many times before with our son. This time is different. The new hope I persue is so elusive and fleeting that I cannot hear its beckoning whispers or see its shadows of light. I have looked in the places where it was found in the past, but for now it is no where to be found.
It has been a week and a day since Garrett drove our son to Coastal Harbor Psychiatric Residential Treatment.
We had our first family therapy meeting last Wednesday and it didn’t go well.
The therapist asked our son why he was at Coastal Harbor and he responded with “I didn’t make my phone calls when I was in the hospital.”
I managed to stay silent while screaming on the inside.
Therapist- “You don’t get to a level 6 treatment center for not making phone calls. Why are you here?” (Our therapist actually used more “colorful” words but I didn’t want to post them online 🙂 ). Son- “I don’t know.” Therapist- “Try again.” Son- “I didn’t listen.” Therapist-“Listen? You know many many people have shared with me why you’re here. Now we’re going to listen to your parents share why you are here.”
We shared but I am pretty certain only the therapist “listened”.
Current stats of the past 2 years.
*15 months in Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities.
*5 months in Psychiatric Hospitalizations.
*4 months (spread out over the past 2 years) at home.
*13 Psychiatric Hospitalizations.
*4 Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities.
*6 different schools.
*17 interruptions in his schooling.
*13 different psychiatrists, each of them made medication changes.
*21 at-home intervention therapists.
*18 inpatient-Psychiatric therapists.
*7 case managers.
Tonight is our last night with our son for what will most likely be many months. Garrett will leave with him at 5:30 AM for the 4.5 hour drive to Coastal Harbor in Savannah GA. I have had 3 other nights like this in the past 2 years and they are like a funeral. Saying goodbye to the child I know now, for when he finally returns he is always different. Changed by time, people, and a life I will have no part in for months.
The grief is overwhelming and I try to sound happy and upbeat while making sure I tell him I love him so many times that it becomes a circulating mantra in our conversation.
I used to remind him to brush his teeth, change his underwear, put deodorant on, write in his journal, and listen to his doctors and staff.
Now I just tell him that I love him and will always be here waiting for him to choose life outside of the hospitals.
I tell him I can’t enable him anymore and that we will not visit him while he is at Coastal Harbor. I will not call him. He will need to call us. I remind him that words mean nothing to us anymore. That only actions can speak to us now. I will not allow him to promise or plead to us at Coastal Harbor. Days of good behavior will not be praised. They will be totaled into weeks and months to receive praise.
We love you but cannot live with you, only your actions can change that.
Make new choices, the old ones haven’t worked.
Good night and goodbye my beautiful and tragically broken son.
It looks like we finally “won” the Psychiatric Beauty Pageant.
Our son will hopefully be going to the Coastal Harbor PRTF in Savannah Georgia.
Now before he “won” and was accepted here he was “denied” at 2 other PRTFs.
“Unfortunately ______ is to acute to be served at our facility.”
Unfortunately _______ is too aggressive to be served by our facility.”
No one has been able to explain to me why the CSU could discharge a child that was so “acute” and “too aggressive” back home. But here he has been at home for a week now.
Coastal Harbor was not our choice. It was the only option left for him in the state of GA. If they had not accepted him we would have had to look at placement out of the state. As it stands now Coastal Harbor is 4 1/2 hours away from our family.
We won to lose.
So last night when my son walked in the door from his week long stay at a CSU clutching a large styrofoam cup of gummi bears I wanted to scream.
But I didn’t.
I put him in bed and let it go. Or so I thought.
At about midnight I still couldn’t sleep. My thoughts still aggressively circling what those damn gummi bears represent. I tried some meditation and repeating to myself “the candy is not the issue, the system is the issue.” But my mind wouldn’t let go.
Twenty minutes and an ambien later I was sitting next to my son watching him sleep.
How did this happen? Why? Could I have done anything different? Maybe if I had known the right people to demand more services 2 years ago I wouldn’t be sitting here now. Was there a drug trial we haven’t tried? What if that one day I gave in to one of his tantrums set us on this course. What if?
Do you know why the CSU gave him a huge cup of gummi bears. Because they don’t have the answers. Nobody does. Most of the time there will never be answers.
Do you know what there will always be? Candy. So at 1:00 in the morning I sat on the floor next to my beautiful and broken child. The tears streaming down my face for the hundredth time and I ate the whole cup of gummi bears. Every damn one.
We are still searching for a PRTF placement for “Little Big Man”.
The hurricane Irma has made an difficult situation turn untenable there are no beds available in 2 of the 5 PRTFs because they are having to evacuate.
The only PRTF (Hillside) that had space available said that “His case is too acute for us to commit to his care.”
So Damian is “too acute” for Psychiatric residential treatment at Hillside.
But, he can come home from a Crisis Stabilization Unit. Apparently we are better equipped than a PRTF.
Garrett picked Damian up tonight out of a room with like 30 kids busy watching a projection screen movie. Damian’s got a bag of popcorn, a soda, and a huge cup of candy. He is covered in drawings with marker all over his arms and neck (flowers, rainbows, smiley faces, unicorns). He has been out of school with no classes for a week while at the CSU. He does not need to communicate with us and spends his days drawing or making art, and participating in group counseling “if he wants to”. His evenings are movies and popcorn and ice cream (if you don’t assault the staff).
My other kids meanwhile, have attended boring curriculum nights, gone to the dentist, had flu shots, gone to school, done daily chores and homework. Tonight they went for a bike ride, had apples for dessert, and read books before bed.
Hmmmm, wonder why he keeps going to the hospital.
These words should be stricken from the human greeting repertoire. No one really answers truthfully. The person asking does not really want to know the answer. Nor do they stop to ask the question. They usually speak the question while actively walking right by you.
No one wants you tell the truth that they had a crappy day because their son is in a mental hospital and has not talked to you in 7 days. That you make 8-10 phone calls a day to secure his placement in residential care where he will be away from you for 3-6 months. You can’t say, I really miss being a mom and had to make horrible choices to send my son away today. Choices that will save his life but will exclude him from his family again. Choices that will severely limit my parental rights and empower strangers to raise my child.
So let’s just stop people. Honestly I hating having to lie 10-20 times a day.
We have just entered the Psychiatric Beauty Contest. We have put on our high heels, taped “the ladies” tight together and crammed ourselves into a dress two sizes too small.
We are in a contest to find a PRTF (youth residential care) placement for “Little Big Man”. There are only 5 such facilities in the whole state of Georgia. Let me say that again, 5 just 5. Those 5 PRTFs serve about 450 kids in total(But Georgia has 33 state prisons that house more than 53,000 inmates).
And so our Beauty Competition for PRTF space begins. Now according to all the glossy brochures and department guidelines, youth are taken on a 1st come, 1st serve basis. HA-that’s freaking hysterical. If you have 4-5 kids lined up for 1 PRTF slot who are you gonna pick… The 1st time suicide attempt and runaway who has never been medicated or given consistent therapy? The kid who refuses to talk and cuts himself? The kid who has been through 5 PRTFs in 2 years? The kid who seems to assault others for fun?
Now, none of the choices are great, but add in mitigating factors like..
1. Private Health Insurance pays more per kid than Medicaid.
2. Department of Family & Children Services can make or break your business based upon recommendations to the state on who should serve foster children in need of PRTF.
3. How many resources will we need to use for this kid (we are paid the same rate regardless of an individual kids intensity)?
4. Are parents or family involved (if they are, that’s more resources we need to use toward family and parent counseling)?
Now, who is getting that PRTF slot?
So, beautifully glossy photos of my family have been emailed with detailed explanations of how we believe in the PRTF we are applying for. How we have brought library book donations, staff Holiday gifts, and bountiful weekly staff snack baskets to PRTFs in the past. How we are a low maintenance, mental health educated, but humble family. Finally, I will have our CME call you, or IFI provider call you, and I will call you several times a day. All to ensure you (our chosen PRTF) understand how committed we are to winning this Psychiatric Beauty Contest.
I heard you today. Your silence spoke so much. Your one word answers. Your tone flat and desperately unemotional. I heard you today.
I saw you today. Your face twisting in frustration as your hands constantly rubbed your eyes and face. Your body slumped in feigned disdain. That little whisp of peach fuzz above your lip that has darkened like your mind. I saw you today.
I felt your anger, pain, and void today. Deep in my heart. I felt your questions, your unknown future. I felt your hopeless mind-numbing circle of survival. I felt lost today.
I tasted the tears that you do not cry. The tears you may not have.
I don’t know you today. I know you are my son but I don’t know who you are. I know I love you but I don’t know what that means to you. I don’t know if you can love or will love. I don’t know if you will love or not. You could fill an ocean of tears with what I don’t know.
I am still here.
On day 8 of being out of the hospital “Little Big Man” has been readmitted again.
The details are the same as they have always been. Self harm, running away from school, refusing his meds, suicidal threats.
He is at the ViewPoint Crisis Stabilization Unit.
We have again had to make the hard choice of applying for Psychiatric Residential Care (PRTF).