I thought I would feel peace but I didn’t. About 3 weeks ago the roof blew off our house – figuratively of course- after all we live in earthquake country not tornado land. Without going into details, by 9 am on a Wednesday morning I watched my youngest child being handcuffed and put in the back of a police car. Following in my own car to a local hospital as they 5150’d him as a “danger to himself and others” my mind was simultaneously spinning and numb. Off to a “psych ward” to figure out what our next steps were going to be. The morning had been ugly and hard and was the culmination of a month-long string of behaviors, but more specifically three big incidents, involving police officers and dangerous behavior that had me make the heartbreaking decision that it was no longer safe for me to have my youngest son in the house. At least not for a little while.
I sat in my nearly empty house that evening hoping to feel a bit of relief from the chaos that had intermittently been our home over the last month, but more honestly a bit of the last 3 years, but all I felt was anxiety and sadness. After a few hours of introspection I realized I was dealing with my own version of PTSD. Of constantly monitoring and supervising and living on the edge. Of making sure that tools were put away and food wasn’t out and the tip-toeing of parenting so as not to create more drama. Of battling homework and cell-phone use and internet access. Of threats of suicide and refusing to go to school and so much shame that followed any incident in our house. And now realizing that we needed more help. More help than I could offer and a reset for our family. I had known it for a while and was making calls to therapists but this morning had solidified it. For the first time in a while I knew the decision that needed to be made, no matter how hard and heartbreaking. It has taken me weeks to be able to write about it and I am still not sure my brain is clear enough to articulate it all well but this is where we are. Authentic and vulnerable in our story.
For the first few weeks I fought sadness and anger and exhaustion. Sad that I couldn’t fix it – that I wasn’t enough. Angry that God didn’t step in and heal him when I know He could. Angry at myself for the mistakes I made. Sad that he wasn’t home right now. And once again I realized that this situation was just another way of God showing me that I can not control things. I keep trying. I pray and give it to Him but underneath I still think I can do just the right thing that will let me feel like I have the tools to make it work. But I can’t and I don’t and as much as I want to be able to fix it sometimes love and shelter are not enough to heal the brokenness of his past. I won’t share details, as this will be his story to tell someday, but as I have pored over records recently in trying to give doctors and therapists and psychiatrists more information I am broken by his early life. But that will not be his story. This season will not be his story.
It took me a while to go back into his room. To clean up the mess from that morning and from another incident a few days before. I finished taking apart the bunk bed that we had begun disassembling. Awash with memories of buying the bed and putting it together in anticipation of bringing these boys home I wish I knew then what I knew now. I wish I had more information on what trauma does to a kid and to their brain. I wish I had listened more and not reacted when I was triggered (a word we joke about from years of life in group homes). I wish I had been more patient at times and more firm on some things. Going easy on them doesn’t create men. Pieces of him are all over this home. His artwork, his whittling, funny photos of family memories, broken things. I miss his sense of humor and dare I say it his energy.
So I now believe that this will becomes an accelerated season of healing for all of us. For his brother who is now home alone with me (probably much to his horror). I am grateful that we have this time together. I find he is opening up when he is the only kid here. Both his brothers have personalities that fill a room and his introversion is natural when they are home. The other night he started talking to me and didn’t stop for 90 minutes. NINETY minutes of unsolicited conversation which is probably more than I have had in the 5 years he has been here. Maybe some of his healing needed to take place with just the two of us in the house. And as much as he misses his brother, maybe for the first time he can feel that he doesn’t have to protect me or anyone else after years of being the buffer between his brother and the world. Healing for me from the few years of hypervigilance, with a large dose of forgiveness for my mistakes. Learning from all of this and a renewed trust that God has got us – it just may not look like what I thought it would. Healing for him, a chance to reset and get some help and get a do-over with our family. That sometimes the breaking point is the beginning of real healing.
So with a lot less naivety and a lot of hope for a new beginning we heal…I heal. As we sat in the hospital room as a family that first evening, through tears I told him that I loved him. I told him that we were in this as a family and I would do whatever it takes to get him where he could get help and heal. I told him that I was not giving up on him and that this is just a short season of not being in the same house. I told him that I felt sad but I also felt….what…happy or glad didn’t seem like the right emotion. As I paused looking for the right word his sweet face looked up he said “Hopeful mom, how about we feel hopeful ”.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. -Psalm 147:3
A bruised reed he will not break….Matthew 12:20