Archive | May 2014

The Hearing

GodsWord.comfort

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).”

Words and air are alike. I need both of them to live. Oxygen helps me breathe. God’s Word helps me survive trials like mental illness (MI).

Countless times I’ve read all of Psalm 119. Not just because it’s easy to find (smack in the middle of my Bible). But because the psalmist echoes my pain and helps me reflect on His Word.

Dear Father, “This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life (Psalm 119:50 NKJV).”

What do you do with words? Whisper them to a despondent son? Yearn for them from a depressed daughter? Ignore them from well-meaning people who offer advice?

Words can be powerful. They can also be difficult to understand at times. Especially if MI clogs comprehension. Like when Chris was hospitalized for his psychotic episode.

I’m usually not at a loss for words. Except when grief grips me. Watching Chris suffer in the hospital made me mute.  Desperation silenced my speech.  In languishing there is no language. Tempting as it was, I couldn’t go into a cocoon and cry. I needed to speak. It was crucial that Chris understand my words. At the upcoming hearing he’d have to agree to stay in the hospital. If he didn’t, he’d face a court hearing—a hearing where we’d testifying against him.

This next part of my story demonstrates how God moved mightily in Chris’s mind. And opened his mouth to speak words I doubted Chris could say.

The past seven weeks I’ve been sharing details of our story. When mental illness (MI) struck Chris, it thrust him into emotional turmoil and mental confusion. It impacted me (and our entire family) as well. Like any other mom, I hated to see my son suffering. During those troubling times, God ministered to me.

My heavenly Father provided peace, protection, and provision. He gave me endurance, wisdom, and guidance. I felt His presence and experienced His faithfulness. As He eased my grief.

This week I’ll share how God’s Word comforted me. Even as I faced the hearing.

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The day of the hearing approached. I discovered a new level of sadness.

I knew how to deal with mild sadness. That’s cured by a good dose of chocolate. I’d learned what to do with moderate sadness. That’s soothed by a compassionate word from a friend and a good cry. I’d even experienced extreme sadness. That’s replaced with perfect peace when a heart cries out to the Lord.

Extreme sadness and stinging sorrow struck when Chris was in kindergarten. His teacher didn’t understand how to manage a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Chris’s hyperactivity blinded her from seeing his superior intelligence and love for the Lord. She only noticed his “bad” behavior. Each day she’d ask me to stay after school. She’d relate every minor infraction of her rules. She’d tell me every little thing Chris did wrong. And never added something positive. As if she didn’t even like him.

Other parents picking up their children heard her daily request, “Mrs. Chandler, could you please stay a minute?” They knew what that meant. No doubt, their children were telling stories of how Chris got into trouble.

The teacher’s sweet expression and superficial smile didn’t dampen the humiliation. Her regular reports pierced my heart. Day after day she defeated my spirit. So I cried out to the Lord.

Oh Father, hear my cry!!! Help that teacher see Chris as You see him. Prevent Chris from feeling unloved when he’s in school. Protect my broken heart.

God heard my cry. And filled me with His peace that passes understanding.

When Chris was in the hospital I experienced a deeper sadness. Tears didn’t soothe my heartache. I had no appetite. Talking didn’t rid me of sorrow. I felt like the psalmist who said, “I am so troubled that I cannot speak (Psalm 77:4).”

My son was hurting and I needed to help him. But I was unable to protect Chris from torment. Nothing mattered except seeing Chris get better.

Because we committed Chris against his will, a hearing was scheduled. Chris was assigned a lawyer from Social Services. The hospital had their lawyer. We were told we could arrange to have our own lawyer. But we didn’t see the need.

I’d lost weight and needed something to wear. None of the dresses in the local Dress Barn seemed appropriate.

What does one wear to a hearing against her own son?

On the day of the hearing the hospital’s lawyer explained what would happen.

“Chris will be asked if he agrees to remain in the hospital. If he doesn’t agree to stay, then we will have to go to court. In that event, witnesses would have to be brought in. The police who came to your house would be questioned. Even your other son might be questioned. In all likelihood Chris would lose the court case. So, it’s in his best interest to agree to remain in the hospital.”

How will Chris understand all of this in his condition? Even if he was clear-headed and not on any medication, I can’t imagine how he would agree to stay in such a place. He’s been begging to get out of here. How can we convince Chris to do the opposite—to say he’ll stay?

The lawyer continued to explain the procedure.

“Prior to the hearing you and your husband will be able to talk with Chris briefly.”

During our brief conversation with Chris, he struggled to understand what we were explaining. He desperately wanted to do the right thing. But also wanted to get out of that hospital.

How can we get him to agree to stay in such a place? How can we make him understand? Father, Your words are powerful. I know You’re able to do what we can’t. Please clear his thinking so he’ll willingly speak the words necessary to prevent worse pain.

God heard my prayer. Chris agreed.

“Okay. I’ll say I want to stay.”

That was only the first step. He had to repeat that statement to the judge at the hearing.

We were ushered into a room. Howie and I were seated behind Chris (not even at the table with the others!). Chris was seated next to his lawyer.

I can’t believe this is happening. Chris looks so vulnerable and helpless. Why couldn’t we sit next to him?

The judge read the official report from the psychiatrist. Everyone heard him say Chris assaulted Howie and me.  Chris had to hear the judge proclaim what was wrong with him. Then the judge asked the all-important question.

“Chris, will you agree to remain in the hospital for your treatment?”

Chris hesitated. His MI and medication made it difficult for him to respond.

“Okay. I’ll stay.”

I was so proud of him and grateful to God. But sad he’d still have to endure being in the hospital. The psalmist had taught me to shift my focus back to God when sorrow threatens to consume me. So I remembered the one tiny word ‘but.’

“But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; For You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble (Psalm 59:16 NKJV).”

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God’s Word can comfort. It can restore joy and renew hope.

My prayer is that you’ll join me in saying, “Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart (Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV).”

Romans 15:4 (NKJV) promises, “We through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

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A Mother’s Thoughts & Feelings

blurred.words.most

NOTE: I wrote this message weeks ago and neglected to post it. This part of my story tells about the time right before Chris was hospitalized. Hopefully, the comfort offered in this message won’t be lost in any confusion.

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It tugs at our heart. The face of an orphan boy. Dark eyes, staring into the distance, reflect the death of his dream. To live with loving parents. “All hope is dead,” his lifeless expression cries out. “Love is for others. Not for me.”

Oliver sang of his search for love. As if wandering in a desert, he thirsted for love. Yearning for it. Longing for it.

“Where is love?

Does it fall from skies above?

Is it underneath the willow tree

That I’ve been dreaming of?”

We can relate to Oliver’s search for love when we can’t find God’s love. We wonder, “Where are You, God? Why are You silent?”

Our journey raising a child with mental illness (MI) can cause us to feel helpless, hopeless, and sad. We desperately need to feel God’s presence. In the haze of MI, His love gets blurred.

When we need Him most, He reveals His comfort and care. This next part of our story illustrates how God provided comfort. He brought into focus His faithfulness. His presence became crystal clear.

The last past weeks I’ve shared details about our journey. In the first part of our story [‘When Mental Illness (MI) Hit Home’] I shared how Chris had begun to unravel in 1996. His reality had given way to unstable thoughts and fractured emotions. My heavenly Father provided guidance and started helping me through my grieving. The second part of our story (‘Unprepared & Sad, but Unflinching’) showed how God provided peace and protection for me and medical care for Chris. In my post ‘What’s it like?’ I explained how God provided endurance and wisdom. Now I’ll tell about how His provision of comfort and an awareness of His presence.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

To understand the measure of His comfort, I’ll first share my thoughts and emotions.

What does a mother think and feel when her son is out of touch with reality? I wondered what precipitated the breakdown. Will I have to hear something horrific that happened to Chris to cause such torment?

I imagined what it would be like if Chris stabbed me.

I’ve heard some people on the news describe what it’s like to be stabbed. They said if feels like being punched. Others claimed they didn’t even know they had been stabbed. So, it might not be too painful.

I thought about how I would react if he killed himself.

If Chris kills himself, the loss will be devastating. But the Lord will sustain me just as He has through other trials. I’ll be happy for Chris, knowing he’s out of the world that has been so miserable to him for most of his life.

I marveled at how the Lord was enabling me to go on for days without sleep, under extreme sorrow.

Dear Father, How can I endure watching Chris in torment? His MI has ravaged my emotions. Without You, I couldn’t hold it together. I’m amazed at Your power to help me remain calm. Thank You for flooding my head with verses of assurance.

Two months after his breakdown, Chris was more stable. But clearly still troubled, unpredictable, and violent. He started seeing a Christian neuropsychiatrist. Dr. Kipley. He diagnosed Chris’s condition: schizoaffective disorder. Medicine could treat the condition. But, the thought of giving him medicine scared me. I didn’t know how to administer it and live. So, Chris didn’t get the treatment he needed. Instead of getting better, he got worse.

At one appointment with Dr. Kipley, Chris appeared very agitated. He yelled at the doctor and threatened him.

“You have to get Chris into the hospital as soon as possible. He’s becoming very dangerous,” Dr. Kipley advised.

“With Chris as dangerous as he is, how can I get him to the hospital without him first harming me?” I asked.

“You must find a way. He needs hospitalization,” was all he could answer.

A few nights later, we all went to the movies. When we returned home, Robert and Howie went upstairs. Chris approached me in the kitchen. He had an audiocassette tape in his hand. Breaking it in front of me he said, “This is what I will do to you.”

Suddenly, he karate chopped my jaw. My earring flew off. I resisted the temptation to touch my jaw. I didn’t want to feel how badly it had broken. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel any pain.

Chris turned and walked slowly towards the steps. As he passed a wall, he punched a hole in it. I followed him upstairs, anticipating he would attack my unsuspecting husband.

Chris walked into our bedroom and began to speak calmly to Howie, as if nothing happened.

Unprovoked, he suddenly attacked Howie with a powerful karate foot kick.

Following the psychiatrist’s instructions I said, “I’ll have to call an ambulance.”

Chris blew up. He started yelling, left our room, and went into his bedroom. One minute later, he emerged seemingly much calmer.

“I’m sorry. Please don’t send me to the hospital.”

“I won’t. But if you do it again, we’ll have to call for an ambulance.”

I felt grateful the incident ended. I gently touched my jaw. Amazingly, it wasn’t broken. Without a doubt, God protected me from injury. There’s no way my jaw could have withstood such a blow from a strong teenager. His hands could break several boards with one swift chop. There’s no way I could remain calm in the face of senseless and unpredictable violence.

Thank You, Father, for Your protection and presence. Thank You for helping me remain calm.

I had gotten better at recognizing God’s love and care. I had learned to focus on His presence which always dissolved emotional turbulence. The One who calmed the raging waters, calmed my fears and sadness. He filled me with divine peace—even in the midst of unsettled circumstances.

God's love and care coming into focus

God’s love and care coming into focus

Having gone through an experience like that, you would think I’d get Chris into the hospital immediately. Next time, we might not be as fortunate. But, there’s no way to explain how difficult it is to commit your son to a psychiatric ward against his will.

I know hospitalization will ultimately be for Chris’s good. But I also know it initially will be sheer agony. Chris will think we’ve betrayed him. I dread the inevitable. Father, help me feel Your presence. Comfort me as we make this heart-wrenching decision.  

What I required, God revealed.

God meets our every need. He’ll direct us to mental health care specialists for our kids. For us, He’ll provide wisdom for our actions, physical strength for each day, and comfort for our emotions.

No need to wander to find His love.

Or wonder if He’s there.

Our faithful Father will reveal

His tender love and care.

God's love & care clearly seen

God’s love & care clearly seen

Celebrate God’s love as sing along with Hillsong Kids: ‘I Could Sing of Your Love Forever’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnPVJYTW9s8

Look for the Light

Light.end.tunnel.use

My college training prepared me to teach children with visual impairments. One of the courses required students to perform tasks blindfolded. Walking without vision scared me the most. I felt insecure and terrified in the darkness. What relief when I removed the blindfold! Light comforted me.

Those of us who raise children with mental illness (MI) experience those same feelings. During our darkest days we search for Christ—the true Light who comforts us.

Last week the account of our story ended with Chris’s hospitalization. I shared how God transformed that horrible memory by using it as a reminder of His love. Our dark days were about to get darker. Thankfully, Christ’s light shined brighter during those days.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

A few hours after we got home I received a call from the hospital.

“Mrs. Chandler, Chris is refusing medication. Will you give us permission to give him an injection?”

“Okay. If it’s necessary.”

When I called later I found out Chris had been put in isolation. He had put up such a fight when they tried to give him the medication. Images filled my head of Chris in isolation. Sedated. Confused. Alone.

“When will he be taken out of isolation? When can I visit him?” I questioned.

“We’re about to take him out now.”

When I arrived at the psychiatric ward, reality hit. The unit was locked. In order to gain entrance I had to ring a bell and announce my name. Then a nurse let me in.

The information provided by the social worker (when Chris was admitted) helped me understand some of the procedures.

It explained that guests were to visit patients only in the lounge areas, not in their bedrooms. But a nurse ushered me into Chris’s room. There sat a woman talking to Chris. When I entered the room she didn’t introduce herself to me. It was a very sensitive moment for Chris and me. This was the first time we had seen each other since the terrible scene at home. We hadn’t seen each other since we had him committed.

Chris sat hunched over. His head bent downward.

“Hi Chris. It’s Mom.”

He raised his head in slow motion. His eyes seemed to be searching for something. As if trying to focus through a fog. He made no attempt to speak. Through his heavy sedation I could detect his emotional turmoil. A mother can just sense when her child is hurting.

“It’s Mom,” I repeated.

“I’m sorry,” he managed to say.

“There’s no need for you to apologize. I know you’re just sick—”

“Do you think Chris has been under a lot of stress lately?” The unidentified woman asked, intruding on our private moment.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I’m Chris’s psychiatrist,” she answered, still not giving me her name. “Chris has been contradicting himself,” she continued.

“Of course he’s contradicting himself; he’s psychotic!” I shot back. “Why are you talking with him in his bedroom? It’s against the policy for anyone to meet with patients in their bedrooms.”

“I just started working in this hospital and am not familiar with the procedures of the ward,” she explained.

Is she kidding? I read the procedures booklet immediately after we returned from the hospital. What kind of professional doesn’t prepare herself for her job? I wonder if she’s even qualified at all!

Later that day I typed a letter to the chief psychiatrist requesting Chris have a different psychiatrist. Chris was immediately switched to the care of the head psychiatrist.

Chris’s stay at the hospital was as bad as I imagined. He had to be strip-searched and all his belongings were taken from him. He was included with troubled teens (who were either suicidal, drug abusers, or violent). There were very strict rules about when he could call us, what he could wear, and what belonging he could have. Each time he had to use the bathroom a nurse had to unlock it.

No wonder Chris informed me, “I’m in jail, Mom.”

Howie and I visited Chris every time there were visiting hours. We stayed the entire time. Chris began to appreciate our unconditional love for him.

“Mom, PLEASE get me out of here,” he’d beg.

“Not yet, Chris. You’re here to get better.”

It was hard to witness him desperately trying to figure out how to get released.

He’d lay his head in my lap and ask me to stroke him. When my boys had grown up I missed doing thing like that. It was bittersweet to be able to nurture Chris in that way once again. I was happy to be able to comfort him. But it ate me up inside to see him so pathetic, so broken.

Howie passed the time by playing cards or chess with Chris. Robert didn’t want to see his brother in such a place. For a while I respected that. I knew Robert was dealing with lots of questions from curious students at school (some caring and some nosy). He was also struggling with getting around school on crutches.

Finally I asked Robert to visit Chris.

“Chris needs to see you, Rob,”

Being very compliant, Rob agreed to go.

During the time Chris was in the hospital there were several things that were hard to hear. Like what he said in one phone conversation.

“It was a good plan to put me in the hospital so I could see that life can be even worse than I ever imagined.”

In another phone call he said, “They took my Bible. God’s not in this place. I’m in prison.”

“Oh Chris. God IS in that place. He’ll let you know how much He loves you. You’ll see,” I assured him. Those words were spoken in faith, believing God would show Chris His love. I had no idea how, but was sure He’d be faithful.

The very next day Chris shared how God revealed His love in that dark place.

“One of the nurses is a Christian, Mom. She gave me back my Bible and said she’s praying for me.”

Many look for the light at the end of the tunnel. We need not wait for the end of the darkness. There is Light in the tunnel—His love shines brightly.

Turn to Him in your darkness and ask Him to hold your heart. Listen to Tenth Avenue North sing ‘Hold my heart.’    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ry6udsW9leA

Transformed Memories

Power Up OR Up Power

Power Up OR Up Power

Beauty and ugliness captured together. One picture—two kinds of power. Black branches shroud the power plant. God’s artistry illuminates the darkness. Revealing His colorful sunset. A symbol of God’s power.

Can pain and love be captured in one event? Can one experience create two vastly different memories? Can a traumatic memory become a reminder of the Father’s love? Yes. But how?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could transform our worst nightmare into a symbol of love? We can’t. But God can. He did it for me. He healed my most traumatic memory.

Here’s the next part of our story (see previous four weeks for the background).

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Chris had already assaulted my husband and me. Confirming the psychiatrist’s warning that Chris had become violent and unstable—clearly in need of hospitalization. Thankfully God protected Howie and me. Concerns still consumed me.

How will we get Chris to the hospital? When will he explode again?

The very next night, Chris assaulted us. This time, Chris hit Howie first and then me. When he turned his back to Howie to hit me (in the jaw again!), Howie got hold of him. I quickly left the bedroom to call 911. As I started walking downstairs I thought, Are you nuts? How is Howie supposed to hold Chris down alone?

I went back upstairs. As I entered our bedroom, I could see that Howie was losing his grip on Chris. If Chris got loose, there was no telling what he’d do to us. My presence in the room distracted Chris. Howie got a better hold on him. Quickly, I helped Howie hold Chris down on the floor.

I managed to close the bedroom door so our other son wouldn’t witness his raging brother. Robert didn’t need to see us restraining Chris, who growled like an enraged animal.

“Robert, call 911! Tell them to send an ambulance,” I screamed.

We calculated later that it took at least ten minutes for the police to arrive. That was the longest ten minutes of my life. As we held Chris down on the floor, his nose started bleeding. Blood poured from his nose onto our carpet.

Howie was on one side of Chris and I was on the other. I couldn’t see what was happening to Howie. All I heard was Howie making grunting sounds as if he was getting hurt.

I learned later that Chris was head-butting Howie, while trying to bite me. As we wrestled Chris, my finger got caught in his mouth. I jammed my fist farther into his mouth to release his grip. It worked!

Shortly after, it happened again. Chris bit my hand. Again, I shoved my fist into his mouth. As I removed my hand, my baby finger got caught in the strong grips of his teeth.

Just at that moment, I heard a different sound from Howie. I heard him moan.

“Is it your heart, Howie?”

“I think so.”

Later, I found out Robert thought his father was having a heart attack. I did too.

As I looked at my finger in the clutches of Chris’s teeth, I considered my options. I could leave it in so I could maintain my strong hold on Chris. Or, I could use my other hand to get my finger free. If I moved my other hand that was restraining Chris, he would surely get loose and hurt us. If I didn’t move my other hand, I thought I’d watch Chris bite my finger off.

I don’t remember what happened next. All I know is my finger got out of Chris’s mouth and we both had a more secure hold on him. It was an eternity of silent agony.

An army of police officers came to our house. I never thought I’d be relieved to have my son handcuffed. But, I was. I knew we would all be safe and Chris would have the best chance of getting better. Howie and I were exhausted.

The police took Chris away in an ambulance. Howie and I rushed to follow it to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital just as the police were escorting Chris into the emergency entrance. We caught up to him. The dark, empty look in his eyes was replaced by a pathetic look. I saw the helpless, pleading look of a son who needed his mother.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“It’s OK, Chris. We know you didn’t mean it. You’re just sick. That’s all.”

At the admissions desk the nurse asked me the routine questions.

“Patient’s name?…”

After a series a questions, she reached out and touched my hand. Then embraced my eyes with a compassionate stare. Her silence spoke volumes. When she spoke again, her words sounded softer and sincere.

“You’ve done the hardest part, Mrs. Chandler. You got him here,” she assured me.

“How do you know that?”

“I had to admit my daughter to this psychiatric unit recently,” she confided.

Thank You, Lord for giving me another mother who understands what I’m feeling. 

“What do you think of the care in this hospital?” I inquired.

“It’s excellent.”

In the waiting room, Howie and I noticed our injuries. The inside of Howie’s lip was raw and bloody from being hit repeatedly by Chris’s head. There was a large cut on his face just under his eye. I had no cuts. Only bruises. All over my arms and legs.

During the six hours we waited, doctors and nurses tried to get Chris to admit himself. But he refused. He would have to be admitted against his will.

A crisis management person was assigned to our case. He explained the law. Legally, involuntary commitment can be initiated if someone is a threat to themselves or others. Chris had proven to be a threat to others. We were informed of the steps in the process. First, a thorough evaluation would be done to determine that Chris was truly incompetent. Then, there would be a hearing.

After a while, Chris fell asleep. He was taken to a room in the adolescent psychiatric ward of the hospital. God was gracious to provide a way for Chris to get treatment in a regular hospital. That way, his peers wouldn’t have to know exactly what was wrong. They’d simply know he was sick and in the hospital. Not in a psychiatric hospital. The hospital was only five minutes from our home. Our insurance covered all of the expenses.

As we left the hospital, we were given a packet of information. It contained all the rules and regulations of the psychiatric ward. A lot to read after experiencing such an ordeal.

We returned home at 6:00 AM. Robert got ready to go to bed. Howie began to clean up the dog’s mess on the steps. I entered our bedroom and immediately noticed the pool of blood on our rug. I feverishly began scrubbing the rug before Robert saw it.

Then, I went to check on Robert. I noticed him standing near Chris’s bedroom door. The door was slightly opened.

Pointing to Chris’s door Robert said, “He’s in there.”

The past two months prepared me to expect anything. So, I assumed Chris had somehow escaped from the hospital. I peeked into his room and caught a glimpse of legs in the bed. The shocked and puzzled look on my face told Robert I thought it was Chris in the room.

“It’s Dad,” he explained.

I pushed the door open. Enough to see Howie lying in Chris’s bed sobbing. I’d never even seen Howie cry before, let alone sob!

“It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault,” he kept saying.

“No it’s not. Chris is sick mentally. He’ll get better,” I assured him and myself.

Later that day, Howie and I compared notes. We shared what we were thinking as we held our son down. What we felt as we waited for the police to come and take him away to a psychiatric ward. Our overriding emotion was one of tremendous sorrow for Chris.

The Lord replaced that dreadful experience with a beautiful symbol of Christ’s love. Howie and I were careful not to hurt Chris as we held him down. Neither of us minded the blows he gave us. Even though Chris cursed us, we loved him unconditionally. That’s how it was with Jesus. He died for us because He loves us unconditionally. He was wounded for our transgressions. No matter how much we curse Him or stray from Him, He loves us just the same. He understands us.

The most horrific story in the Bible is Christ’s crucifixion. He experienced agony on the cross. For those who have accepted his death as payment of their sins, that picture of brutality has become a beautiful symbol of His unconditional love.

What’s your worst experience with your child who has mental illness (MI)? God can heal that painful memory. Pray this prayer:

Dear Father,

Please transform my painful memory. Give me an eternal perspective of that awful experience. Remove the horrific image that plagues my thoughts and replace it with a picture of Your love. Thank You for the promises of Your love. My heart still sings, ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’”

“The Old Rugged Cross” (sung by Alan Jackson) reminds us of God’s unconditional love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fa1afzmDL1Q