Spring Has Come Again

We made it through another fall and winter. We barely avoided a long-term hospital stay for our boy. By the skin of our teeth. But we’re here.

Fall was always my favorite season growing up. You leave behind the searing heat of a Texas summer and mosey on in to perfect temperatures and beautifully colored leaves that crunch deliciously under the soles of your shoes when they fall. And you don’t have to deal yet with the swampy, rainy season we jokingly call winter in the South or the spring that is sure to bring swarms of various flying, stinging creatures of ill omen as well as enough pollen to bury entire vehicles and ensure that all but a lucky few become seasonal mouth breathers.

But fall holds no joy for me now. Fall is the time of year that I know Javan’s mental health will be at its worst. It really starts earlier, about midway through July, and by mid-August we’re just gasping for enough air to survive another hour, another minute, another second. Fall is a time when school is impossible, even at home, property gets damaged, people get hurt, and isolation is the black hole that graciously saves us from dangerously colliding with outside forces at the very same time that it unrelentingly sucks the oxygen from our lungs and threatens to consume our very souls. Dramatic, yes. But also true, in the way that severe depression borne of isolation and fear is a truly soul-sucking experience.

And this time, ya’ll, this fall and winter, I couldn’t access enough light to write by. I fell into a darkness so deep that I no longer cared if the oxygen found its way to my lungs or not. There wasn’t enough air to form words, not enough light to give them shape. Just darkness. Emptiness. I was sure we were going to lose our boy.

It was very probably the “right” thing to do to put him in the state hospital for six months to two years or even longer, as we were urged to do by so many professionals. But when have I ever been given an easy “right” road when it comes to parenting? I live in a vast jungle wilderness. I can sometimes see a direction that will lead me to some important life-giving substance like food or water or away from some very dangerous predator, but there’s never a road to get to or from those things. Not even any tracks to follow. We always have to cut our own paths, through the thorns and past the venomous snakes. And we’ll never have enough time to cut both paths we might have taken at any given time to see which would have been the wiser.

I saw the professionals urgently pointing me in the direction they felt was right. I took the machete from their hands and prepared to cut the path. But I couldn’t go. As desperately as I and my family needed the sustenance on the other side of the thicket, I couldn’t go in the direction they pointed me. I knew the path I chose may be more dangerous, and that if I chose that path and harm came from my choice, there would be no one to blame but myself. They were urging me to cut the Head Path, the path of certainty, of assurance, of safety. But my heart wasn’t strong enough to do it, or maybe it was too strong; I’m not certain. But I ultimately did as I always do and probably always will do, for better or for worse, and chose to cut the Heart Path.

Maybe my son would have learned more in an institutional environment – more academics, social skills, independence, more Head Stuff – and maybe not. The one thing I know for sure is that the Stuff of his Heart would have been irrevocably wounded. My Javan has a most tender and fragile heart, and his heart is so beautifully and fatally intertwined with my own and that of my husband that the separation itself would have hindered its beating, and I fear that it may never have regained it’s once beautiful rhythm. I can’t see him so intimately broken like that. I pray that I never have to.

This is the terror that the fall and winter months hold for us. And it’s over for now. It may not “technically” be spring, but I got my first sunburn today *yes, in FEBRUARY* so I declare that Spring has come again.

A Very Important Postword: When I say that I think the path our family chose, the path of keeping our readily hospitalizable son home with us, was the right path for us, I am saying exactly that and ONLY that: It was right for OUR family, for OUR son. Just as each family and each child are different, so is each “right” choice. If you have made the heart-breaking and sacrificial choice to hospitalize your child, I stand with you in strength and solidarity and I loudly applaud your courage in making what was likely the most difficult decision of your life.

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