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