What Matters – Giveaway
April 9, 2017
April 21, 2017

Into the Woods

I stood there and watched him run into the woods. I didn’t follow as I knew I would never be able to catch him. I was beyond exhausted. Behind me I heard walkie talkies going off as three staff bolted out of two buildings and ran into the woods after him. I found myself fighting back tears.

The staff beside me put her hand on my shoulder and gently said “Don’t worry, we’ll get him” and I began to sob.

“It’s not that” I said “it’s that I don’t have backup staff at home. I don’t even have one staff. How are we going to manage when he comes home?”

I was standing outside one of the units for inpatient psychiatric care at an agency 200 kilometres from our home. My son had been spiralling out of control for several months. He heard things, envisioned things that weren’t there. He was forever doing unsafe things and then begging for our help to make him stop. We had locked away all the knives and sharp objects. We stopped taking him out in the community, his behaviour so erratic there was no way to know what he would do. He stopped attending school as there were only so many lockdowns they could do in short amount of time. He was unsafe out in the world and barely safe at home.

The last straw was when he brought me his housecoat belt over his outstretched hands and he begged me to help him end his life. He was 11 years old.

* **

It’s 1990 – my 17th birthday and none of my friends are to be found. To be honest I have been giving them the cold shoulder for several months so it isn’t that much of a surprise that they aren’t here wishing me a happy birthday.  I sit by my locker, writing in my journal – the same thoughts over and over.

I’m nobody and the world would be better without me. If I could I would just merely cease to be.

I get up off the ground, taking my Prozac out of my pocket as I approach the water fountain. This new drug is being heralded as a new and promising drug to combat depression. What they don’t know yet is that it could lead to increased suicidal ideation in children and teens. I open the bottle intending to take one. Instead I dump the twenty nine pills into my hand and swallow them in one swift motion.

I am amazed at how easily they went down. It takes me several seconds to register what I have just done. My blood pumps so strongly that I can hear my pulse. My hands begin to sweat. I lower myself to the floor outside my locker and pick up pen and a paper. With a shaking hand I write my suicide note. I tell the world how worthless I am. How I can’t take the darkness any more. I ask for forgiveness.

Please forgive me.

* *

They come back on the path – a staff each holding an arm and another in the rear. He is struggling and crying. Something about chasing a deer and that he is a hunter. He begs them to let him go so he can catch his prize. He writhes and as they get closer I can see that his pupils are large saucers, his face mottled. He continues to struggle and doesn’t acknowledge me as he goes by, his thoughts are only on the imagined doe.

Once inside he continues to scream and yell and try to break free. They take him to the lower level where the time out room is. It is a completely empty cell like room. They know I do not want him locked away in rooms such as this. They assure me it is only temporary and no one will close the door.  I stay upstairs – partially to avoid making him more distraught and partially because I cannot bare to see him like this.

The staff continue to talk briefly and quietly to him. Giving him time to calm. Medication arrives to help calm him even further. Within a few minutes I can tell everything is working. I cautiously go down the stairs and peek into the room. He’s squished tight into a corner, his face streaked with his tears, his breathing shallow.

He sees me and lunges at me. “Mom I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Do you forgive me?”

*.    *.  *

It is the year 2015 and the bright lights are blinding me as I lie on the small emergency room bed. The nurses and doctors brush past the curtains that are only partially closed. When I first arrived, I had been in a private room. When my husband left to make some calls I ripped a bedsheet and made a noose. My husband found me before I could tie it. My nurse scolded me like a child
“If I can’t trust you then you can’t be in here. I thought I could trust you and you went and did this”
I want to tell her I am ill. Just as ill as people with cancer and diabetes. I want to tell her that I am not here as a joke, that I have real problems that have brought me here. I want to ask her if she has ever suffered from depression and gone to that deep dark place where nothing makes sense except for dying.
I do not. Instead, I lie down and cover myself up. The on call psychiatrist stops by and quickly signs the form making my stay mandatory for up to 72 hours. I am distressed at being placed “on a hold” and do not take the news very well. I cry and beg my husband to do something to help me.
I deserve to be here. I stopped taking my medications thinking that I was well enough to make do without them. Obviously I am not. The voice in my head swirls around and around speaking nonsense combined with self-deprecating thoughts. Either they have given me strong medications or my psyche is so stressed that I am in and out of consciousness. Time passes. My husband will tell me later that this went on for three days waiting for a bed.
I lie on the bed and I cannot sleep anymore. Overtaken suddenly by emotions that I can no longer avoid. I sob into my pillow as my husband looks over me. I reach my hand out to him, lucid for a moment.
“I’m sorry” I say “please forgive me”
Together we walk along the river, stopping at times for him to climb the rocks and jump down. He claims to be doing Parkour and I claim to know nothing about what he is saying. He laughs at my lack of knowledge and takes a risky jump from one rock to another, landing gracefully. He joins me back on the trail and we resume our walk.
I cannot help but think back to those years where he and I were both so ill. I marvel that with medication and treatment we have both been stable for a few years. The gut wrenching days of his early adolescence and my deep dark depression have lifted. Now we have typical mother son disagreements but mostly we have peace. Peace. Something I was not sure our family would ever experience.
We no longer need forgiveness.

Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak is a 40-something mom and wife with two spirited boys. She has worked in early intervention and as an advocate resource for families with a loved one with a disability. Now she also writes a blog about raising children with complex needs, trying not to lose your sense of self as you parent, and her struggles with mental health.

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