One week from today, Ben will be discharged from the longest hospital stay of his life. Five months. Five months! Believe me, I am grateful. Grateful that he was safe, cared for, and somehow has returned from the abyss of his illness. Again.
Not gonna lie, though: we’re also very grateful for having had a break from living with him. What a blessed empty nest. No staying up til 3 AM to make sure he takes his meds. (Up until Covid hit, Ben had worked as a restaurant server, thanks to those meds he hated). No cigarettes on the front porch. No huge messy vegetarian cooking marathons. And, mostly, no tension in the house from secrets kept, delusions hidden, resentments festering.
How, after nine years of success, did Ben wind up at square one, delusional and certifiable? I can blame Covid-19 (see this earlier post) for the job loss, the structure crumbles, the community scattered, his purpose stolen – but, truthfully, he was teetering on the brink of the rabbit hole even before that. Excessive pot use, self-caused financial stress (he leased a Lexus? Really?), and mostly – mostly – resenting and cheeking the medications that provided the foundation for his ability to function in reality. Every night my husband or I could feel the hatred coming from Ben as we supervised his medication he desperately wanted to not need, all his charm having been used up at work and none left for his family.
But there’s only so much you can do if he backwashes into the water and then swears he didn’t.
We got by. We all squeaked by. Until August 29, 2020. Another night spent in the police station, calling the on-call psychiatrist, watching my son disappear before my eyes. Again. Talk about the worst Déjà Vu ever.
Fast forward, I guess…past more court hearings, renewed conservatorship, Ben’s refusal to go back on the meds that work best for him, awkward zoom calls (no visiting allowed, thanks Covid), paperwork trails to get him back on disability and out of debt. Where are we now?
He finally seems stable again – but he’s on Haldol, a medication that can have devastating – and permanent – side effects. Also, it doesn’t help much with the negative symptom of schizophrenia, so I’m not a fan. But Ben has refused to do the blood draws required to be on Clozaril. So here we are. And – so far, so good.
It seems okay. He called me yesterday – three times, as he needed a favor – and we actually had a conversation: about his bank account (yes, I deposited money so he won’t be overdrawn), his car (repossessed, and he’ll have to declare bankruptcy and start over again), his housing (back to a group home, which has thankfully accepted him), about origami (he taught everyone on the unit how to do his favorite creations, something he recalls from years ago), and even about politics. He is aware that we have a new President, and that in itself is a miracle, since five months ago all we got out him was the occasional grunt and suspicious staring and mumbling to his voices.
When Ben learned that I had taken care of his affairs, he said, “Mom, you’re the queen of the world” – and he meant it to be funny, not a delusion. I have my son back – well partially. As always, I’ll take it. Better than nothing.
In one week, he gets placed in a residence with a day program included. He has no car, no job, and will be living a half-hour from us. But it’s better for him, and for us. I hope and pray that he doesn’t walk out the door of that place when the nurse is coming with his medication. It had happened before. And then– back to the psych unit. The revolving door.
I have my son back – well partially. As always, I’ll take it. Better than nothing.
But, for now – we hope. And express thanks to the staff that has kept him safe for five months, the medication that seems to be working, and that there was bed available for him.
Can things fall apart again? Oh, heck yes, you bet they can. But dare we hope?
Absolutely. We dare to hope. No use predicting disaster (then we’d have to go through the emotions twice, and all we’d get is the booby prize of having been “right”. (Ugh) – all we can do is our best to prevent it.
Welcome back, Ben. I’ve missed you. Not the illness – I hate schizophrenia with all of my being. But now that I see glimmers of my son again. Yes. I’ve missed that.
One step at a time. And avoid the rabbit holes.