Tag Archive | stress

Surviving Survival Mode

Tyler Park Newtown, PA

Photo taken by Vicki Chandler at Tyler Park Newtown, PA

How would you describe your life raising a child with mental illness (MI)? Have you ever witnessed your loved one’s sweet personality engulfed by psychosis? Could you even begin to explain what it’s like to see that loved one in a psychiatric unit? How would you describe the impact that had on your life and your family?

A close friend’s four-word description spoke volumes: “We’re in survival mode.”

How would you convey that message? What details would you share to help someone understand ‘survival mode’? Here’s my attempt to further clarify those two words:

Survival Mode

It’s a minute-by-minute existence.

An emptiness filled with despair.

Trivial cares swallowed by mental illness.

Secretly crying, “This isn’t fair!”

There ARE no adequate words to describe what it’s like to see your own child in a psychiatric unit. Broken and in torment. No wonder our hearts break when we learn of friends enduring the same anguish.

That’s precisely why my heart is breaking. Just thinking about their ordeal brought it all back to me (the times our son endured a psychotic episode). Their news filled me with empathy. Empathy led to pain. Pain thrust me to a local park. There, I found a temporary escape from the distractions of the world. There, I found the oasis of God’s creation.

Just two side notes:

The park is located in a very congested Philadelphia suburb. So, if you feel drawn to escape distractions (for a short time), I’ll bet you could find a quiet corner of your world. If it’s not possible for you to escape your home (while watching your child), perhaps a video I made will offer you a virtual escape.

There are many families dealing with similar unspeakable trials. The details may vary, but the sense of loneliness is the same. If that’s you, I wanted to share my heart in a more personal way. So, I grabbed my video camera and tripod. And headed to the park. The brief message I recorded (below) isn’t a professional-quality movie. It’s just sincere words of encouragement, from my heart to yours.

https://youtu.be/DBID02_zNJ8

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New School Year: SUPPLY Needed

New.school.yr.SUPPLY.nded

The approaching new school year means…excitement or apprehension, depending on your circumstances.

Students entering school for the first time eagerly anticipate going to school “like the big kids.”

Students returning to school with mental illness (MI) may worry about “the big kids” who bully.

School pressures can cause concern to any student. But for someone with MI, it can easily increase anxiety. And threaten mental stability.

That’s why moms raising kids with MI can also experience increased anxiety late in August. As the start of school creeps closer, her thoughts might become more consumed with her child’s stability.

I remember when Chris was heading back to school the year after he experienced a psychotic episode. Fears swarmed in my head about what might happen.

Will Chris remember to take his medication? Will his medication need to be adjusted? Will other students ask him intrusive questions? Will he be able to handle the pressures of homework? Will he be able to concentrate and think clearly? What will happen when he has to face his first test?

 We needed to get Chris’s supplies in order. But I needed to BE supplied—by God. I needed His provision, peace, presence, and power. God proved to be more than sufficient. He faithfully provided all Chris needed. And calmed my fears.

Moms raising children with MI need help. Back-to-school TV commercials fill us with a sense of urgency to seek God’s help.  Here’s a suggested prayer from one mom to another:

Heavenly Father,

Please help my child find a loyal friend. Place a caring teacher in his path this year. Lead us to a skilled therapist that will connect with my child, and who will teach him effective coping strategies. Guide me to a compassionate school administrator or staff member, who will be a proactive advocate for my child. Provide sufficient finances to pay for expenses that insurance won’t cover. As life gets more complicated, give me wisdom to know how to manage all the details of life. Show me ways I can support my other children, while ministering to my most vulnerable one. And please give me strength to endure. Protect my marriage in the midst of this trial. Finally, I ask that you help me keep my focus on You, rather than on the challenges that may come. Remind me that You’re still on the throne and in control.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

 Our heavenly Father is able to supply all that and more. He promises to reveal His peace, presence, and power.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;

he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17).

This song will help you face each day. The lyrics will remind you that He’ll carry you and your loved ones through. Let King & Country’s song “Shoulders” minister to you:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40wYfjv6yt8&feature=youtu.be

Abundant

Life.Full

It’s funny when it happens to others. The sight of someone dropping a bag of groceries can be hilarious. The shopper picks up several items, only to drop them while chasing down a runaway orange.

“Oops! Get back here. Oops! …  #* &#%!@!”

We can relate to their misfortune. Who hasn’t tried juggling two bags? Or who hasn’t fallen victim to a self-destructing grocery bag?

But, it’s no joke when we find ourselves dealing with more than we can handle emotionally. That’s what happens when our child struggles with mental illness (MI). Somewhere in the midst of coping, we discover we’re juggling the details of life, while ministering to our child. Our minds are full of worries and work, cares and responsibilities. No wonder our heavy hearts break.

Our mind’s eye keeps checking the needle of our stress meter. We watch it edge closer to the danger zone: the limit to what we can handle. We dread reaching the point where we’ll run out of emotional fuel to keep going. Then what would happen? Who would collect our cares and carry the load?

God offers His abundance.

When stress is abundant, seek His abundant grace and peace.

“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2).

When despair is abundant, seek His abundant hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).”

When sadness is abundant, seek His abundant joy (the fullness of His joy).

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

When a sense of inadequacy is in abundance, seek His abundant indwelling power.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” [Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)].

When uncertainty is abundant, seek His generous wisdom.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

Many of our local food stores have hired helpers who offer assistance in the parking lot. When I exit the store, I can easily find them. They wear bright vests so a shopper in need could easily spot them. Often one of those teenage helpers, with bulging muscles, runs to my car and cheerfully asks, “Do you need any help?”

Usually I decline his offer. But, I’d be a fool to turn down God’s offer. He approaches me throughout my day and asks, “Do you need My help?”

Faith-stretching

faith.stretching

Silly Putty Stretched Faith

How strong is your amusement-park faith? Mine ended at the mammoth roller coaster. I’d go on any ride except that one. Until our friend, Ed increased my faith in that ride.

“I’m heading to the roller coaster,” he announced.

“Not me. I won’t go on that ride,” I balked. “That’s where I draw the line. I’m too afraid that the car I’m in will be hurled off the tracks. And catapult me into the air.”

“That’s the safest ride in the park,” Ed declared.

His assessment gave me the confidence I needed to join him. Not because of the way he stated the fact. But because of his credentials. For decades Ed had worked for a large city as their inspector of bridges and other structures.

At the end of my first ride, my fingers had to be pried off the lap bar. By my fifth ride I’d gone from terrified to thrilled. My faith in the ride increased, helping me to relax and enjoy the ride. I even joined the ranks of the brave hand-raisers. My arms waved in the air as the car whipped me up, down, and around the tracks.

Life can feel like a roller coaster. Especially when raising a child with mental illness (MI). Our journey surely wouldn’t be included on the list of fun rides at a theme park. Yes, God fills our lives with blessings. But there’s no amusement in the MI trip. Faith is necessary. Our trial makes it painfully obvious that trusting God is a daily process. That’s how we survive.

We put our trust in the Designer of the track we’re on. That step in faith enables us to relax in His care. Our eyes are opened to see His faithfulness. Then we’re able to fling our hands in the air as we praise Him for His power and love.

The thing about faith is that it comes in all amounts. Some days we might have strong and abundant faith in God. Other days it may be harder to relax in His care. Pressures grow. Stress increases. Faith weakens. How do we handle those faith-stretching times in our lives?

Early on in my journey with our son’s MI, it was as if I’d been trust onto the ride of terror. There were unexpected dips and turns. Chris had a break from reality and had to be hospitalized. Thankfully, he quickly became stabilized. Homeschool was needed. Thankfully, God provided instructors who could teach Chris’s college-level AP courses. Chris’s body chemistry changed, triggering another psychotic episode. Thankfully, there were other medications available which successfully treated him.

The more I rode the MI rollercoaster, the more my confidence grew. With each crisis came God’s provision.

There have been periods when I’ve had breaks from the MI rollercoaster. Then, suddenly, I’d realize I had been placed back on the ride. I’d sense the subtle clues. Chris’s behavior would change slightly. The sparkle in his eyes would fade. Tell-tale puffiness around his eyes would reveal secret torment. His conversations would be reduced to grunts.

Those were times which tested my faith. Times when I echoed the apostles’ request to, “Lord, Increase my (our) faith”! (Luke 17:5).

The book of Hebrews became my go-to place to shop for greater faith. It reminded me that I’m, “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).”  I’d picture giants of faith mentioned in Hebrews eleven cheering me on. I’d hear Noah, Jacob, Abraham, and Moses yelling, “Hang in there, Vicki. God is with you. He’s still in control.”

Those men of great faith were human, like me. How did they keep the faith and even abound in faith? What was their secret? I think it’s found in Hebrews 12:1-3

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

That passage in Hebrews begins with the challenge to throw off what hinders and entangles us. We’re burdened by our own thoughts and emotions. Worry and fear can weigh us down. Making it difficult to continue running our race. Our nurturing thoughts drive us to solve every problem. Some situations regarding our child’s MI can only be handled by treatment or therapists. And some need God’s intervention alone. In those cases our need to control the situation can block our path to complete trust in God. So we wonder if God’s still in control.

Verse one assures us that God is still in control of our lives. This race we run has been ‘marked out for us.’ It is a God-appointed path.

So how do we run? Our Trainer has provided instructions in verses one through three. We’re to run with perseverance having our eyes fixed on Jesus, while considering Him. As we reflect on all that He is and all that He’s done, our faith increases. The One who conquered death is on the throne. He’s alive and able! He’s the Source of all the inner strength we need.

We can be confident that we’ll be counted among those heroes of faith, “… whose weakness was turned to strength (Hebrews 11:34).”

We need not quiver in fear like Christ’s disciples who cried, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown! (Matthew 8:25).” Jesus will calm the storms in our lives.

We can be like the centurion who told Jesus, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed (Matthew 8:8)”. We can have that same faith because we trust in the same God.

Clearly life is not a roller coaster. We don’t need to simply brace ourselves or buckle up. Our preparation involves wearing godly accessories. No outfit is complete without God’s shield a faith protecting our heart.

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).”

Shields up!

Listen to Steve Green’s song: “Find Us Faithful” and imagine that great cloud of witnesses cheering you on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi-Mn5tRHvM

 

 

School Pressures

wisdom

What’s worse: the terrible twos or the temperamental teens? Many parents would contend that it’s tougher to raise teenagers. That stage of development can leave a parent wondering what happened to their peaceful home. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, parents of teens can feel like the tornado of life has whacked them on the head. Leaving them muttering, “There’s no place like our old home.”  Homework and hormones and cars, oh my…Homework and hormones and cars, oh my. Yikes!

Raising a teen with mental illness (MI) can be even more challenging. How does one interpret a grunt? Is it the normal teen code for yes? Or is it the sound of an emotionally turbulent teen expressing garbled depression?

MI complicates everything in the life of a teen. How does one counsel a troubled child about peer pressure issues? When should the teen be allowed to drive?

In this part of our story, life seemed to be getting back to normal. The new medication had stabilized Chris. I was grateful Chris didn’t have to endure another psychotic episode. Though relieved, I still felt ill-equipped to discern how Chris was thinking or feeling. The Lord provided wisdom along the way.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

During Easter vacation Chris seemed happy and relaxed. He was more talkative, much like the old Chris.

“My stress level is only a two,” Chris informed me without prompting. On a scale of 1-10, ten was the most stressed. So a two indicated a normal level of stress. Good news.

Rob and Chris rehearsed a skit to show the family on Easter. They memorized the “Who’s On First?” skit by Abbott and Costello. I loved hearing them so happy and carefree. Their play practice assured me Chris’s new medication was working.

All too soon Easter vacation ended. The night before we all had to return to school I became concerned. Chris was wandering around the house aimlessly. I was trying to get myself back into the swing of things. I focused on my regular school night routine: get lunch money, check dinner plans, review my school schedule…

I went into the dining room to get lunch money for the boys. Chris followed me.

“Here’s your lunch money Chris,” I said and quickly turned to move on.

In the kitchen I checked the upcoming menu I’d planned.

Hum. Beef stroganoff. I’ll need to put the meat in the crock pot in the morning.

I moved the beef cubes from the freezer and placed them in the refrigerator to defrost. I spun around to grab the noodles and seasoning from the cabinet. And knocked into Chris. He had followed me from the dining room.

“Excuse me, Chris.”

I scurried to the living room to check my date planner.

What’s on my schedule for tomorrow morning?

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Chris sitting near me. He had followed me from the kitchen.

“Chris, are you bored or are you nervous about getting back to school tomorrow?” I snapped.

Chris glared at me and walked away.

Perfect! I’ve just added to his stress and made it difficult for him to talk to me. I know I should have been more compassionate. But I’m so busy. Father, help me know if Chris is feeling stressed.

Surprisingly, Chris returned.

“I’m having a difficult time just thinking about going back to school,” he reported.

“Let’s watch a movie to keep our minds off it,” I suggested.  “You might even be able to fall asleep watching the movie.”

“Sounds good,” Chris agreed. “Could I sleep in your bedroom?”

“Sure Chris,” I replied.

His question concerned me. Certainly Howie and I would have no objection to him sleeping on our floor. We were happy to do anything to help him relax. But his question made me wonder.

Why does he want to sleep in our room? Is this an indication that he’s feeling stressed? I can’t keep imagining his MI is getting worse. But what if he is becoming emotionally fragile? Dear Father, please give me wisdom to know what to say. Help me know if he’s in trouble.

Chris asked to sleep in our bedroom for three consecutive nights. He also asked me to call his psychiatrist.

“Mom, can you call Dr. Newman? Find out if I can take a tiny bit of my new medication at school when I’m feeling extra stress. Like I did with my old medication.”

It didn’t surprise me Chris was feeling more stress. The Spring Arts Festival was fast approaching. There would be many rehearsals. Chris’s schedule would become busier. Pressure would build.

College added to that pressure. Many high school seniors become apprehensive about going away to college. Chris was no different. But he had made a wise choice to minimize his adjustment to college living. He had selected a small college fairly close to home. The small campus would be conducive to finding rooms and offices easily. The close proximity to our house gave Chris the option to go home on the weekends. That would alleviate any anxiety.

In the spring we visited the college Chris would attend. We planned to travel to the college on a day other than orientation. That way, Howie and I could support Chris privately. We visited the nurse to share helpful and confidential information. After that Chris led the way as we went to the bookstore. He selected his textbooks. Then we headed to the Student Affairs office to inquire about Christian organizations on campus. Getting involved with fellow Christians would provide support for Chris.

Chris walked through campus with a spring in his step, his head held high, and a smile on his face. It was reassuring to see him so happy and confident. Chris was looking forward to living in a dorm. He embraced the challenge of living on his own. He had always been a risk taker. And always super focused on achieving his goals.

Around that time Chris joined the church’s bowling team.

“What can bowling teach us about life?” Chris asked. He had a way of asking philosophic questions. And expected a profound or theological answer. As usual, he asked the question while I was involved in some mundane activity. I was unprepared to ponder a spiritual response.

Oh Father, give me the words to answer Chris. Help me respond with an answer that will help satisfy Chris.

“Paul tells us in the Bible that we should be like athletes and keep our eye on the goal. In life we should always have goals. But we need to keep our focus on the smaller steps that lead to accomplishing the larger goals.”

Chris smiled and nodded in acknowledgment. My answer satisfied him.

Thank You, Lord, for giving me an analogy he can relate to bowling. Whenever Chris uses the marks on the bowling alley to aim, help him remember the message You gave me for him. Fill Chris with the assurance that life won’t seem so overwhelming if he takes it one step at a time. 

In May Chris could see the finish line. Final exams came before graduation. Chris excelled in math. English was harder. Especially since he was taking an Advance Placement English course (a college-level course). The remainder of his grade would be comprised of the last marking period and two exams (the midterm and the final exam). If he failed the last marking period and either of the major exams, it was possible for him to fail English for the year.

“My English teacher assigned a project that will be counted as a final exam,” Chris shared.

As the days clicked down, I prodded Chris with casual reminders to do the project. In spite of my reminders, Chris waited to the last minute to work on the project. The night before it was due, he came to me asking for help.

I reviewed the assignment. Students were to demonstrate what they had learned about English literature for their four textbooks—their four HUGE textbooks.

“Chris, summarize what you’ve learned.”

He couldn’t tell me anything!

Dear Father, calm my anger. I can’t believe Chris waited ‘till now to ask for help. I want to yell at him. Rebuke him for procrastinating. But I know that could push him over the edge. I need Your wisdom. I have no clue where to begin. Help me to know how to guide Chris.

God gave me the idea to use the contents of each book to formulate questions. Those prompts helped him remember what he had learned. Amazingly Chris received a ‘B’ for that project. To God be the glory!

There were only a few days left of school. I could tell Chris was cherishing every day he had with us. Soon he’d be going abroad. Four days after graduation he would leave to go to Germany. He would spend a month with a family as part of an exchange program. Then he’d be home for only several weeks during the summer before leaving for college. We would all need to trust God even more.

Musical Strain

Trouble.Spirit.black

It’s powerful. It can make people move, smile, sleep, or cry. And can change the mood of a crowd.  Music has power to influence emotions. David played his harp and freed Saul from a distressing spirit (1 Samuel 16:23).

According to Wikipedia, a musical strain is “a series of musical phrases that create a distinct melody of a piece.” Musical strain, in Chris’s case, represented stress that threatened his peace. Music contributed to his breakdown.

Being in several competitive bands is demanding. It requires endless practicing. It proved to be too much for Chris. But once he recovered from his psychotic episode, Chris wanted to return to his old routine. That included music competitions.

Chris had been released from the hospital and had finished his junior year. Thanks to gifted homeschool teachers, Chris completed his work on time and received good grades. Summer vacations to Colorado and leadership camp proved Chris was well on his way toward full recovery. But I still worried.

Chris has accomplished a lot since his breakdown. But he might still be emotionally fragile. I don’t think he’d be able to handle the stress of those music competitions. How can I allow him to subject himself to such pressure? How can I tell him not to audition?

God reminded me His power is greater than any musical composition. His perfect peace can block out the most disturbing music. Here’s how it happened:

♦♦♦♦♦♦

November was the month auditions were held for County Band (the best musicians in the county) and District Band (the best musicians in the area—several counties). That time of the month brought painful memories.

Just last year Chris auditioned for County Band and District Band. The day after his District Band try outs, he suffered his breakdown. Howie says we should let Chris enter the competition. I’ll ask everyone for prayer.

“Is it wise to let Chris do to the auditions?” many of my close friends would ask.

“If we don’t let him try out, he’ll feel more like a failure than if he auditioned and didn’t make it. He’d resent his mother controlling his life. I can’t refuse him the opportunity to demonstrate his incredible musical abilities. I don’t want to stand by and watch the added stress harm him again. That’s why I’m asking for prayer.”

We came up with a plan to support Chris as much as possible during the auditions. I made arrangements for Chris to see his psychologist immediately after the County Band auditions. Chris traveled to the auditions with his music director, Robert, and other students. I met him there and found the hosting school staff.

“My son, Chris, has a doctor’s appointment today. I’ll need to take him immediately after his audition,” I informed them.

Robert had to deal with his mother showing up at the auditions. Chris didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he welcomed my support. A reaction that both pleased me and concerned me.

District Band tryouts came next. Plans were put in place once again. I’d meet Chris at the school and take him to his appointment with the psychologist. I arrived at the school when all the students were warming up their instruments. The auditorium was filled with blaring, distorted sounds. The unrelated notes eerily resembled the “music” of a shattered mind.

What must this sound like to Chris? It can only amplify his apprehension and any distorted thought. I’ve got to get him out of this room!

I frantically searched for Chris. With a sense of urgency to free him of the noise. Usually it was easy to spot Chris because the slide of his trombone is easy to locate. Not this time. The longer it took for me to find him, the more I began to panic.

Where can he be? What’s happened to him? Was this a big mistake?

Finally I noticed him sitting on the edge of the stage. His head hung down and his shoulders were bent over. He was the only student not warming up. His pathetic appearance filled me with mixed emotions. Sorrow made my stomach feel like I’d just headed downward in a rollercoaster. But gratitude filled my heart.

I waded through the sea of instruments and musicians. When I reached him I asked, “Are you allowed to walk around?”

“Yeah. We can leave the auditorium.”

What a relief to reach the quiet, peaceful hallway. The Lord even helped me get permission for Chris to be tested earlier than scheduled.

While Chris was in a room being tested, two students walked by. They were saying unkind things about a fellow musician they’d seen last year.

“Do you remember that weird kid who acted so strange last year?” one asked.

“Yeah. He played the trombone. He was odd.”

They’re talking about Chris! I didn’t know he acted strangely last year. Not enough for others to notice. Father, why did I have to hear those unkind comments?

Thankfully, that audition ended without incident.

Soon after, we got the results. Robert and Chris made County Band. Chris also made District Band. Any musician would rejoice in such an accomplishment. In Chris’s case this represented a tremendous testimony of God’s provision. It was also proof of Chris’s determination, courage, and talent.

Dear Father,

Thank You for showing Chris that life can go on. I praise You that Your power is greater than anything. Dissonant music filled the room. But Your perfect peace inhabited Chris’s mind. You silence the discord in our hearts and our lives.

 

 

The Dreaded New School Year

school.supplies.worry

When purchasing new supplies and new clothes for your child with mental illness (MI), did you buy some new worries too? I did. Chris would have to face changes in his senior year of high school. He’d have to trust new people. Would he be able to handle the stress? Would I?

My greatest fear: another breakdown. With God’s help, Chris finished his junior year of high school on time. His studies were interrupted by hospitalization, followed by out-patient care, followed by home bound instruction. Yet, Chris successfully completed eleventh grade. I convinced myself things would be smooth sailing for Chris from then on. That happy place of denial didn’t last long.

The only thing worse than watching your son “lose his mind” is noticing some warning signs that indicate it’s about to happen again.

In October of Chris’s senior year that’s exactly what happened. From my first experience with Chris’s breakdown, I learned to notice early warning signs. When I realized Chris getting close to the edge again, I felt very helpless. I didn’t know if anything could be done. He already was on medication.

At the same time, I felt confident the Lord would sustain me as he had before. But I dreaded having to watch Chris suffer like that again.

When I picked Chris up after school he acted differently than normal—especially on days he had band practice. He either talked incessantly or fell asleep immediately. He started getting some nose bleeds, which indicated his blood pressure might be unusually high again.

I knew we had to do something, but worried there was nothing that could be done. Worry led to shame…I felt ashamed I wasted emotional energy worrying. God tells us in His Word we shouldn’t be anxious because it can’t add one day to our lives. In my mind I knew worrying wouldn’t accomplish anything (except maybe cause me health problems!). In my heart I believed God was able to do beyond all I could imagine. Yet, I feared the situation would only get worse. Sometimes our imagination is our greatest enemy.

When I took Chris to see his psychiatrist, Dr. Newman, I learned there was a very simple solution.

“We can give Chris a tiny bit of extra medication at the time of day when he experiences the most stress,” explained Dr. Newman.

“How will that help? Most of his medications cause him to be drowsy. Won’t that just make him sleep more?”

“No. When Chris experiences additional stress, his brain produces adrenaline. Adrenaline reduces the effectiveness of his medication for psychosis. The adrenaline makes his mind race so he can perform under the stressful conditions. That’s why he’s more
talkative when he first gets in the car after school.”

“Why does he fall asleep sometimes?”

Dr. Newman went on to explain. “Once the stressful condition is over, Chris experiences a “bounce” which is a sharp decline in his mental energy. That’s why he falls asleep so suddenly. It’s the way his body allows him to recover from the stressful experience.”

It started to make sense to me. It seemed like what happens to infants when they get an injection. Sometimes they cry a lot and then fall asleep after the ordeal ends (the sharp decline in mental energy following a stressful experience).

We agreed to try administering just a tiny bit of medication as needed, at just the right time of day. I was still worried. I thought it could be dangerous to increase the dosage of a psychotropic medication with a teenager who was on the brink of another breakdown.

I needed to know, “What if this doesn’t work? Could this bring on a psychotic episode?”

“That would be a mini-crisis and you should beep me. Say it’s an emergency,” Dr. Newman replied casually. His casual demeanor didn’t reduce my level of concern.

Chris would be the one who would determine when he needed the extra pill, based on elevated stress. I knew Chris wouldn’t go to the nurse to get his medication. That could make him late for band practice. Being late for practice would just add more stress. Having the nurse show up at band practice to give Chris his extra pill would be an option either. What teen would appreciate that?

The best solution: Chris would carry his own extra pill. The school nurse initially wasn’t willing to let Chris do that. The school’s zero tolerance policy against drugs was the issue. But Chris was entitled to a reasonable accommodation. A compromise was proposed to have Chris also carry a note from the nurse giving him permission to carry the pill and administer it to himself.

When I picked Chris and Robert up from school, Robert got into the car before Chris.

“How did Chris act during band practice?” I asked him.

I never realized Robert had grown tired of my asking him how Chris acted in school (all during Chris’s junior year). Robert’s response was a wake-up call for me.

“Please stop asking me how Chris acts!”

“I’m sorry, Rob. I won’t ever ask you again.”

As soon as Chris got in the car I could see for myself how things went. He wasn’t talking incessantly. He didn’t fall asleep at all. It seemed like the problem was solved and the crisis was over.

Peace returned to Chris and to me. But there would be more critical periods that year. Times when I’d succumb to worrying. Occasions for God to reveal His faithfulness once again.

God can always make a way when there seems to be no way. Let Don Moen’s song “God Will Make a Way”  remind you of His unending faithfulness, power, and love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zo3fJYtS-o