When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home


I never thought it would happen. Not to my son. Not to our family.

Who plans on life with MI? Who dreams of having a son with MI? Not me. Thirty-three years ago, I felt blessed to give birth to a ‘normal’ baby boy. Chris started his life as a happy baby. After sixteen years of his life, things fell apart. Badly.

Denial worked for a time.

My life is normal. Everyone struggles with their kids from time to time. All children get in trouble at school once in a whole. Boys will be boys. He’s going through a phase.

I tried fooling myself. But, deep down inside you knew the truth. Things weren’t right. Finally, one day I couldn’t ignore the obvious. Along came a huge problem. More serious than any other. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, a greater crisis hit.

There comes a time when the facts hit you in the face. For me, that’s literally what happened.

Two weeks before Christmas in 1996, much needed to be done. Holiday cards to address, gifts to wrap, presents to buy, baking to be done…

I planned a simple meal for dinner. After we ate, I wanted to spend time talking with my husband, Howie. Find out how his day went. Then, I’d wrap some gifts and address a few cards. If time allowed, I’d prepare for an upcoming faculty meeting. As the director of instruction at the Christian school where I worked, I didn’t always have time to plan during the day.

While I washed the dinner dishes, our oldest son came into the kitchen. Chris slumped down in a chair and stared at the floor. I sensed something was bothering him. But, I really didn’t have time for a serious discussion. I proceeded to share some small talk. Hoping that would cheer him up.

Chris’s responses seemed distant. He seemed serious and preoccupied. It became obvious I needed to re-evaluate my priorities for the evening.

I sat down and asked him, “What’s wrong, Chris?”

“Mom, I’m lonely,” he answered with tears in his eyes.

I felt a pain pierce my heart like a knife gouging my emotions. Memories of abuse he endured through the years hemorrhaged in my head. Reminders of bullying he suffered pounded my stomach like a sucker punch.

My mind raced. I couldn’t silence the thoughtless comments teachers said to me about Chris. Those comments I’d buried tormented me once again. Insensitive statements made by professionals who found it difficult to manage a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Scenes of Chris’s fellow band members ignoring him plagued me once again. It became impossible to suppress reminders of Chris’s classmates walking past him as though he didn’t exist.

Up until that night, he never showed any sadness or expressed any loneliness. His happy façade fed my denial. I chose to believe he must have gotten desensitized to the way others treated him. Thinking perhaps he didn’t even notice some of it—a benefit of having ADHD. I convinced myself none of it really bothered him.

I’m lonely, echoed in my mind. I realized all the pain from the past never went away. He would have to deal with emotional scars of rejection and teasing.

How can I watch him work through all that pain? How can I relive all those terrible memories?

Chris and I talked for about two hours. Then, I spent time talking with Howie. Not about how his day went. About Chris.

The next night, Chris needed to talk again. This time both Howie and I listened to him. We shared words of comfort and affirmation. We prayed together. That was a Thursday night.

The following night, Chris and his younger brother, Robert, prepared for their high school’s holiday musical performance. They collected their instruments and music. Hung their tuxedos by the door.

Chris came over to me while I prepared dinner.

“I can’t talk right now, Chris. I have to finish making dinner. We’ve got to quickly eat dinner and get to school.”

Chris ignored my comment. He continued the conversation we had the night before. He wouldn’t stop talking.

This isn’t fair. I spent two whole nights listening to him. I can’t deal with this now. Why is he being so demanding?

In my heart, I knew Chris was hurting. I sensed him reaching out for help. But, I felt annoyed and overwhelmed.

“Chris, just let me make dinner.”

Chris stormed away.

By Sunday night, Chris talked non-stop. There was no conversation. No back and forth communication. He didn’t acknowledge our comments in any way. His rambling words revealed thoughts which were distorted and disconnected.

Having received my training in the field of special education, I knew what was happening. I’d seen it before. Years ago, one of my students had a psychotic episode. But, all that training and experience couldn’t prepare my heart.

It didn’t help to know ahead of time what might happen. If Chris had become schizophrenic, he could be violent and unpredictable. He would need to be hospitalized.

I listened to Chris drone on, distorting verses from the Bible. He paced the floor like a caged animal. He had a dark, empty look in his eyes. I saw before me a broken young man. A son in torment. A gifted mind (with a 144 IQ) shattered.

Am I witnessing the result of all those years of pain? How am I going to face this? How can I bear to watch him unravel? Will life ever be normal? How will this affect his brother? Is this really happening?

Like many mothers, I handled whatever came my way. That’s what we do. We deal with life. But, I knew my husband and I would need help. Help beyond professionals. Help from Someone who could ease our pain and restore our son’s clarity of thought. I turned to God.

Dear Father, help! We need wisdom, strength, patience, and peace. Chris needs comfort and healing.

That was just the beginning of our trial. Thankfully, it was also the beginning of God’s protection and guidance. So began my journey with our son through MI. My heavenly Father had already started helping me through the grieving stages, gently moving me past my shock and denial.

What would I have done without God’s amazing grace? Celtic Woman sing of His “Amazing Grace.”



9 thoughts on “When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home

  1. I’m sorry. Yet we know that nothing, absolutely nothing, is too big for our God. He may use you and your son in many ways to bless others who have similar struggles.

  2. Yes, Kathleen, “nothing, absolutely nothing is too big for our God.” Since 1997 God has used our struggles in many ways–to encourage others with the hope we found in Him.
    Thanks for your compassion.
    Serving a God of all comfort,

  3. Dear Vicki,

    Yours words pierced myheart. The words that only a mothers heart who has a challenged child can understand.

    All the statements you made, the bullying from the kids, the being made fun of, the insensitive teachers aides ,principal, etc. All take theirtoll in a little boy who is already confused, hurting and knowing he is different, in bad ways to him and others.

    Just a short comment to tell you I told Keith this week, yesterday in fact, long story short, hehad to make a decision between his parents or his drinking. Much more apparently to it, but am brain dead tonight and very very sad. He is saying that that health clinic has a recording that he threatened the doc and that the policy is he can never come back. So, now no health care with high blood pressure , no meds and scared to death he will die soon of stroke or heart attack. I told him I was done. Too sick, too tired, can;t fix it anymore. Don’t call unless you are sober orhave some help. He is alone and thinks he is going to die soon. I am so so torn if I did right thing, but this ultimatum has been too long coming, I believe. Hope did right thing. Feel awful. Will cry myself to sleep tonight.

    In pain,


  4. Dear Patty,
    I can’t imagine how hard it was for you to make the decision to give Keith that ultimatum. It’s understandable how you could feel so sad. You’ve hung in there for so long trying to ‘fix it.’ Sounds like you were at your wits end.
    “Dear Father, encourage Patty. Give her Your assurances that she did the right thing. Prevent the enemy from filling her head with needless guilt…or from contaminating her thoughts with fear and worry (about what’s happening to Keith). Help her know You’re pleased with her constant trust in You. Fill her heart with your comfort and her home with an abundant sense of Your presence. Please guide Keith to someone who will know how he can get the help he needs. Thank You for Your faithfulness and protection. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
    Rest in His perfect peace, dear friend.

  5. Dear Vicki,

    Thank you so so much for your beautiful comforting prayer. I am really trying my best to rest in His perfect peace. I am reading it quite a bit. Not easy to achieve some peace with what is in this world we live in. I had a quite difficult time at church yesterday as was so sick with the fibro but determined was going to go. Then part of the sermon was concerning the prodigal son; our pastor is quite different (in a good way) but my pain with Keith combined with physical pain almost caused me to have to leave during the sermon but I didn’t. I had had a 2 and 1/2 hr conversation with him on Saturday and it was exhausting! What can a mom do?? I just can’t hang up on him as he is questioning God, religion, and what 2 different men of God have told him. I’m just not into theology.I am simple in my faith, i guess you could say and really get paranoid about what I say to him. Then I forget where a scripture is and get it mixed up!!!!! I just tell him I believe;I know Jesus is my Lord and Savior but tell him he has to ask for the Holy Spirit to help him and just talk to God as he does with me! I am not good at getting him to understand my passion for my Lord!!

    I imagine Chris is a believer so you don’t have this particular situation??

    Pray you had a peaceful Resurrection Day!! And congratulations on your upcoming new grandchild. Your son and dil must be ecstatic! And you and hubby too!!! Thats wonderful.

    Your sister in Christ,


    • Dear Patty,
      I can just imagine how your 2 and 1/2 hr conversation with Keith was exhausting. You’ve been pouring out everything you have spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Be encouraged…God promises in Isaiah, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (KJV)
      God’s word will not return void. We can cling to that promise.
      God calls us to share the Truth. You did that. The fruit of it is up to Him. So getting Keith to understand your passion for the Lord is the work only God can do. You did your part perfectly. I love how you explained what you told Keith: “I just tell him I believe; I know Jesus is my Lord and Savior but tell him he has to ask for the Holy Spirit to help him and just talk to God as he does with me!”
      Your simple faith is greater than theology.
      One of the horrible things about MI is that the enemy tries to use it to confuse God’s Truth in troubled minds. But our Father is greater By faith, we moms can continue to share God’s love.
      Sorry to hear you’ve been so sick with the fibro and in pain. I’ve been pretty exhausted lately. Overdoing it. Paying for it. I don’t regret cleaning clutter from a storage room (mostly overseeing what Chris did, as he lifted heavy items). I don’t regret driving 3 hrs. the next day to go to Good Friday services with my mom and aunt. I don’t regret spending time with the family after church yesterday. I’m grateful that today I can start my recovery for all of that activity.
      Yes, we are all ecstatic about the upcoming birth of our granddaughter (early in August).
      Serving the God of all comfort,

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