The prompt I chose this week: A time I feared for the safety of a loved one.
I've written many times about The Boy, and his challenges.
Mental illness is a bitch.
Since The Boy was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I in February of 2002, there hasn't been a single day that I haven't feared for his safety - afraid that his illness would overwhelm his mind, and cause him to take his own life.
Nothing in life prepares you to deal with a six-year old who attempts to jump out a second-story window. I just grabbed him, pulled him in, and locked that window tight.
Or one who, in third grade, asks the school principal to call me so I can take him to a locked ward because all of his Spelling sentences were about suicide. He was admitted to a children's psychiatric unit that day.
He's medicated and those meds are carefully monitored, but I don't think he has had a symptom-free day. His Asperger's kind of complicates his diagnosis. And when we add the angst and moodiness of adolescence, it's impossible to know if a symptom is normal, or something that means a call to his psychiatrist.
I fear that his medication will cease to work. He's been on any number of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and antidepressants. As he has grown physically, many adjustments in medications and dosages have been made. It's a balancing act - not enough of the drug, and he has a relapse; too much of any one drug, or a combination of drugs, and he's risking damage to his internal organs.
Lithium, which has worked for many patients, used to work for The Boy - until a doctor prescribed him a toxic dose.
And even though the medications have changed him, and have scary side effects, I am grateful that they exist. So far, he's had seven admissions to psychiatric units to adjust the levels of the various drugs they want to try.
When he's in the hospital, I can worry a little less. He is safe there - and he can't get out. All personal belongings are searched to eliminate anything that could be used as a means to commit suicide. Shoelaces are removed, belts are prohibited. I even had to remove the spiral binding from a notebook before they'd let him have it.
Bipolar disorder is a bitch. And early-onset bipolar disorder is a more severe version of the disease.
He talks about suicide on a regular basis. It's up to me to decide whether it's just a fleeting feeling, or something to worry about.
The fact that he is ultra-impulsive makes even those fleeting feelings potentially dangerous. I ask him to promise not to do anything drastic - if it be for an hour, or a day.
I am ashamed to say that I use mother guilt as a deterrent. I have told him that if he dies, I will never really get over it, and will never really smile again.
I tell him about all the people who love him, and how they will miss him, and will not understand why he selected such a permanent solution for a temporary problem.
He used to try holding his breath, hoping that he'd die from lack of oxygen.
He tried to hang himself with his Nintendo DS car charger cord.
He's tried to drown himself in the bathtub.
He's lain down in the middle of the road, and hoped that cars would run over him.
He's threatened to stab himself in the chest. He's held a knife against his throat.
He's very anxious. His 'fight or flight' reaction generally trends toward flight - he sometimes bolts into traffic, even now.
How can I not be afraid for his safety?
Between ten and fifteen percent of bipolar disorder patients successfully commit suicide.
This study didn't help lessen my worries.
I am grateful that The Boy takes his medication faithfully. He tolerates the drugged feeling and the hand and body tremors.
I had read that during adolescence, kids don't want to continue their medication - and typically, at age 16 in most states, there isn't anything a parent can do if their child chooses to stop treatment.
I am proof-positive that worry does not cause gray hair - God knows I've earned a headful.
And one of my lingering fears? Who will take care of The Boy when I'm no longer here?