This blog is not FDA approved
Tuesday, February 26, 12:45 PM. I am at my office, avoiding a staff birthday luncheon, when the phone rings.
It’s a number from his school.
My first reaction was to sigh, my second was to pick up the receiver and get it over with. What was it now? Had he failed a test, not turned in homework, gotten caught on unauthorized websites or something else? Was he sick? If so, how bad? Could he wait an hour for me to get there from work, or should I hire a cab?
All this was going through my mind as the Assistant Principal introduced herself. That was the first sign it was not academic or illness. Now I am thinking unauthorized websites, or something totally out of character like fighting.
She asked if I knew my son had a girlfriend (yes), but that they had broken up last week (yes). She told me he had sent the girlfriend a text after lunch.
Great. He is in trouble for texting during school hours, or he sent her a nasty text in retaliation for the breakup. The latter seemed strange only because he and I had discussed the breakup over the last several days and he seemed OK. They would remain friends, they even still liked each other, but she had a lot going on in her life and felt she couldn’t handle an official boyfriend right now.
I would never have been able to predict what the AP said next, even with hindsight of the last 18 hours.
“He texted that he had overdosed on pills and was planning on killing himself.”
The girl had texted her mother, who called the school, who dragged him out of class. His heart rate was at 136 and he was drowsy; they were calling to ask me which hospital I wanted him to go to.
My son’s first brush with therapy came five years ago, at age 11, during my divorce from his dad. There were circumstances with the divorce involving the loss of where we were living and financial struggles that could not be hidden. I wanted him to have an outlet to talk to since I was no good, constantly crying and on edge myself. I got him mental health services first and made sure he was taken care of, way before I found the strength to do the same for myself. He found and connected to a therapist for this situation until he felt he was OK using his new coping skills.
After that, he would ask to go back to see the therapist as he felt he needed a follow up. Dad dating, school stuff, grandmothers dying. I never noticed anything that would have triggered me sending him first, but I always sent him when he asked. I was proud that he felt he could ask for help when when needed it and not be embarrassed.. The therapist was great too, taking him in for appointments even when I could not afford it as long as he felt my son was benefitting from the sessions. When I went through my job issues last year and hit one of my lowest points with anxiety, I sent him in to make sure he (once again) had an outlet and to make sure my issues weren’t scaring or hurting him.
Mental health is not a forbidden or “secret” subject in my house as it was when I grew up. The details and the depth might not be shared all the time, as in my not knowing my son was feeling suicidal or him not knowing about my bulimia, but general depression and anxiety are discussed. No, not every night at dinner, but the need to seek help or ask for it. I like to think for a mother-son team where one of the parties is 16 years old, we do pretty well with communication. Not perfect, but better than some relationships I had seen with his peers.
So why didn’t I see this coming?
I like to think I am good about hiding my issues. I hear “I never would have guessed” often during the rare times my depression or anxiety is brought up (I hear it every time with the bulimia). Putting up a strong front, or what I think is one, is exhausting. The armor starts to break at home. I sleep too much, eat irregularly, stay in pajamas all day too often.
I used to think these things were no big deal. My kid seemed well adjusted and healthy, I had a job and paid the bills. I didn’t drink, didn’t cut myself. I am a “quiet” bulimic, mostly using pills at this point and hiding those well. Sure, I was/am passively suicidal (yes, I am getting help for that), but I never talk about it or would do anything to myself. But now I wonder if I really have been fooling myself. With putting on the act that all is OK to the outside world, was I teaching my son that he should be doing the same? Certainly he knew some of my “happy face” was just an act, though not the full extent of it. Did he figure if it was good enough for me, then the same would be expected for him? Was he lying when he said he was OK because he was worried about how I would react or if it would trigger me to sink further into my abyss?
Or am I so wrapped up in my problems that I missed his entirely? What does that mean going forward? Will I miss the signs again?
All this is going through my head, along with so many other unspeakable things, as I race down the interstate. I have promised my supervisor that I will pull over on the side of the road and call if I cannot drive any further. My brother has agreed to meet my kid at the hospital, just living 15 minutes away. I am mostly estranged from my family but I know they will be there for the kid. I am thankful they are there until I can be, yet the comments about “cry for attention” and “not being serious” grate me. But now is not the time and the ER waiting room is not the place.
I get there and am told he took twelve Dramamine. Given the medications I have at home, it could have been so much worse, so one huge thing to be grateful for; he is alive and no long term medical effects predicted. His heart rate is down from a rate of 136 resting, having been pumped full of IV fluids and now he is drinking a ginger ale.
The mental health services representative comes in and talks to him and then talks to me. The official evaluation, based on the 30-minute interview, is that they don’t feel they need to keep him as an inpatient, but they suggest letting him make the decision. He decides he wants to go home and see his therapist as soon as possible (the next day).
A few hours later and we are sent home, first stopping for Chinese food. I put a moratorium on all texting, xBox live and FaceBook for at least the next 24 hours. He left the school in an ambulance, the rumor mill will be running rampant and I don’t want him having to answer any questions right now. Exceptions are his cousin and the ex-girlfriend, who now thinks this is her fault, but even those I limit to “I am going to be OK” texts before cutting off the phone.
Now it is 10:00 AM, the day after the biggest scare of my life. I will take him to his appointment this afternoon. He is suspended from school for admitting to taking the pills during school hours, received from a friend during lunch period. Ten days out, but he will be able to make up the work. I wish it wasn’t a suspension, but in a way it is a good thing that he will have this time to rest and not deal with questions or scrutiny from his peers.
I hear him stirring, ready to get up. Different than the other movements he has made as I checked on him every hour throughout the night. We will go downstairs now and distract ourselves with Netflix or whatever junk TV we can find right now.
Normally, I try to end my posts with something witty. Or witty to me. Today, I can’t do that. So I will wipe my tears from writing this out, get dressed, go downstairs and do all that I can for the moment for my son. Holding him and being there.