I’m Not the Only One, and Neither Are You

Trigger Warning: This post mentions suicidal thoughts and actions.

Today was one of those days that just begs to be hidden away and forgotten in a dark, dusty corner. One of those days that can be painful to look at  too closely and scary to share with others. It took us by surprise since Javan has been doing so incredibly well and we hope and pray that today will stand alone as a singular episode and not become part of a larger sequence of instability.

As I’m typing, I’m increasingly aware of my quickening heartbeat and the thoughts of doubt that reverberate in my mind…”Are you really going to share this with others? What if you cause them pain? What if they think… (you’re bad parents, your son’s not safe, you’re overreacting, etc., etc.) My answer though is yes. Yes I am really going to share the parts of our lives that are dark, scary, shameful, etc. Because every time I choose to secret these bad moments away, I am isolating another parent during their dark and scary and shameful times. And I refuse to do that. I won’t be a part of a society that only shows the silver lining, that only shows the good times, because that society is a lie. It’s the lie that tells each and every one of us, “You’re the only one.” Well guess what, I’m not the only one. My son is not the only one. Our family is not the only one. So I choose to boldly shine light on our successes and our failures, the good times and the bad, because somewhere out there is another parent, another child, another family believing that they’re the only ones.

So here’s what happened. Javan came home just before lunch time from spending the night with his Grammy. They’d had a spectacular evening, night, and morning and she commented on his great behavior and manners when he’d been with her. Yes, that’s the Javan we’re seeing a lot of these days! He had a hard time with her leaving, especially because he knew she’d be travelling to see his cousin this weekend. That’s a double dose of anxiety: One dose from knowing that Grammy would be far away, and a second dose from jealosy that his cousin would be getting time with her when he would not. He screamed and cried when she left and she told me that he’d also been doing a lot more crying and regressive behaviors than normal. He settled down quickly, but continued to have abnormal emotional reactions to the slightest negative situations. This continued through lunch to the point that I decided to try seeing if a nap would “reset” his emotions, as they often do just that.

He did not take well to being asked to lay down for a nap, even though we do that nearly every day and he takes a nap at least 75% of the time. We had been planning to see a local library’s summer event featuring a puppet show and stories, but his behavior and emotions were much too sporadic for a public outing. But of course he couldn’t understand that. He just knew he would be missing a fun thing and having to take a nap instead. What kid wouldn’t be upset, right? So, for naptime, we take “cuddle naps,” which means he sleeps in my bed with me, I read him a story, and then after 30 minutes of quiet resting if he’s not asleep he can get up. I do it that way instead of putting him in his bedroom so I can keep him from playing the whole time, otherwise he’d never nap and many of our afternoons/evenings would often be less peaceful than they are post-nap. Plus, if I’m being honest, I just like cuddling him. And I like naps.

Well, today he was so offended by the idea of being asked to lay down that he absolutely refused to move his body to the bed without Dad’s help  (Dad comes home for lunch every day since he works 7 minutes away).  We got him in the bed, but he was being extremely violent, kicking, hitting, biting, scratching, pinching us and himself. Screaming and crying the whole time. We never could get him to settle down in the least.

This is the part where my heartbeat picks up and my thoughts turn to doubt. The hard part. Deep breaths. He was so upset that he began threatening to kill himself. He’d rather be dead than have to take a nap. He kept shouting, “Get up or rise up!” over and over again. Meaning he wanted to get out of bed or he wanted his spirit to rise up to Heaven. Then he began strangling himself repeatedly with his hands. He did this about five times. Would he be able to efficiently complete suicide that way? No. Does he know that? No. The point is not that he could have died. He couldn’t have. We were right there with him and even if we hadn’t been, the very worst that could have happened would have been him passing out.

The point is that he wanted to die so badly that he was willing to carry out the act of taking his own life. A nine year old child. My nine year old child. And this isn’t even the first time he’s dealt with this. I believe the first time he talked about wanting to die, he was just four, although at that time he didn’t take any subsequent action. Several times since then, we’ve heard him utter words to that effect, sometimes with action, sometimes without. Never with any serious actions that could have actually resulted in death. But that’s where the questions grow and morph into even more nightmarish images. How long have we got until he fully understands what it takes to make a human body stop living? A few years? Maybe less than that? And how many times will his brain tell him the lie that “death would be better?” Better than a nap? Better than what other, bigger obstacles he perceives and faces? Will we be right there with him to stop him every time?

We can’t know. For now, all we can do is watch him closely. Who knows, maybe tomorrow he’ll be great, just like he’s been for the past few weeks. And maybe he’ll keep doing great for days or weeks or even months. Maybe today will just be today. One thing I do know for sure is that whatever tomorrow brings, we won’t face it alone. We’ll face it side by side, hands linked, with all of you. And my hope is that there’s another mom or dad or kid out there who will read this at just the right time, when they need it the most. And they will not say, “I’m the only one.” They will say, “Me too.” And they will link hands with me and you and not feel alone. Because they’re not alone. You are not alone.

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