Tag Archive | unstable

Stability

God.stronghold

Why would thousands of commuters approve of the decision to shut down a bridge on a major highway? Is it because they look forward to adding more time to their already long drive into work? Could it be they eagerly anticipate the adventure of finding new routes amidst already clogged roads? Hardly! It’s because they understand the bridge is unstable. They fear what might happen. The tilting bridge could collapse.

That’s a picture of life in the home a child with mental illness (MI). Life with MI can be as flimsy as a house of cards. Normalcy and peace in the home can be as fragile egg shells. There’s instability and no one knows what might happen next. The uncertainty instills fear. Violence may or may not occur. But change is inevitable. That’s a troubling reality, a sad fact.  It’s hard for moms to accept their child won’t be the same. Can others understand?

Getting a new house, a new spouse, or a new job can be both fearful and wonderful. Wonderful because of the exciting adventure ahead. Fearful because of the changes that will occur. Change is unsettling to most people.

How can we cope? What can we do when we sense a new trial looming on the horizon?

This next part of our story provides one answer. I turned to my unchangeable Savior. Christ offered stability in the face of oncoming instability

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In March Chris behavior became alarming. He acted strangely, but different than the first time he suffered a psychotic episode. The first incident happened when he made an odd comment.

“I found the verse in the Bible about what should happen to a child who hits his parents,” he told me.

The verse in Exodus 21:15 came to my mind. ““Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.”

“What did you think when you read that verse, Chris?”

“I think I got off easy,” he replied.

Chris still didn’t understand that his behavior was a result of his MI. Prior to his first psychotic episode he’d never been violent to us or anyone else. Quite the contrary. He was a loving and appreciative son. Often he’d thank me for making dinner.

That conversation signaled turmoil simmering inside Chris, tormenting him once again. I braced myself for another incident. Whatever that would be.

Early one week he didn’t communicate with us. He didn’t respond to our questions or share in our conversations.  He stopped smiling.  Within that week his behavior deteriorated quickly. New red flags popped up.

When I insisted he respond to us, he became belligerent.

“Don’t you ever shut up?” he’d ask.

Each day seemed worse. It took him longer and longer to respond.

“What did you say?” he sometimes asked.

I sensed he was having trouble thinking. It seemed hard for him to process information. Thankfully my teaching experiences helped me know how to respond. Some of my former students had significant processing delays in their thinking. They simply needed to hear a question repeated. So I’d repeat my questions to Chris slowly, using a minimum of words. Still he struggled to understand.

Everyone noticed Chris’s difficulty thinking. His brother, Robert, pointed it out. Chris’s teachers called to share their observations. The band director reported similar behaviors.

It progressed to the point that Chris wouldn’t even answer at all. No matter how many times we’d ask him something. No matter how slowly I’d post the question. Chris even started putting his fingers in his ears when I spoke to him.

“That’s typical teenage behavior,” some of my friends told me. Trying to comfort me.

I knew it was worse than typical teenage behavior. God gives mothers intuition and insight into their kids. Especially the most vulnerable ones.

Dear Father, I sense Chris is heading to another psychotic episode. Chris seems to be unraveling again. He’s become unstable again. Ease my anxiety.  I don’t know what we’ll be facing this time. Help me focus on Your stability in the midst of instability. Thank You that You never change. I know You’ll be faithful, just as you were last year. Once again I need Your peace, protection, and guidance.

The psychiatrist told us Chris was heading for different kind of psychotic episode. His first one caused his thoughts to race. This time his mind was slowing down.

By Thursday of that week Chris sat motionless with his head down. I knew I needed to take him to the psychiatrist.

“Chris you need to stay home tomorrow. I’ll take you to see Dr. Newman,” I informed him.

Chris silently refused. He just glared at me.

Reluctantly I allowed him to go to school. Friday was the day Chris’s physics teacher had breakfast with his students at a local diner. Our whole family frequently joined them. After breakfast Howie would take the boys to school on his way to the train station. I would drive my car to work. That morning the waitress was much slower than usual. In spite of that, the boys wanted to stay and finish breakfast.

“I’m not going to have time to take the boys to school. Can you drive them?” Howie asked me.

“I’ll drive you. Chris can take my car to drive himself and Robert to school,” I answered quickly. The time pressure caused me to make a poor decision. Chris was in no condition to drive.

When I got to work I did the final preparations for the Math and Bible Olympics. They were scheduled to be held that afternoon. I put in a call to the psychiatrist. Hoping he could prescribe a minor adjustment to Chris’s medication.

“Chris isn’t talking at all. He sits motionless with his head down. He even glared at me last night,” I reported

“I’m deeply concerned. I need to see him first thing tomorrow morning,” he said with urgency in his voice.

His tone scared me. Chris has the car. What if he completely loses it while driving home from school? I have to get to him as soon as possible.

The elementary school principal could fill in for me. She had helped with all the plans for the Olympics. The only problem was that she was pregnant. Due any minute.

“I need to meet Chris at his school before he leaves. I can get the Olympics started. Will you be able to run them?” I asked her.

“Sure. As long as I don’t go into labor!” she agreed.

Dear Father, please be the stability in this day. Keep her from going into labor. Prevent Chris from driving before I get to him.

I left work at 2:00 PM and flew to Chris’s school. I arrived there just before he left. And followed him home.

That night was Gym Night at the high school. All the students were divided into two teams (by last names, according to the alphabet). Chris had signed up for two events. One of them was Simon Says (much like the band march off). With him being son unstable, I was afraid of what he might do. I feared that if he got eliminated and the opposing team cheered, he would run to attack someone.

I watched him pacing before his events. Thankfully, he behaved normally during those events. As I watched him compete, his focus amazed me. It seemed impossible for him to hold it together under all the pressure of a gym filled with noisy spectators. Gym Night lasted several hours. All that time I studied Chris. Sitting poised and ready to leap off the bleachers if he acted peculiarly or violently.

Dear Father, please help Chris behave normally. My emotions are churned up. Please be the stability of my heart tonight.

Thankfully, the evening ended without incident. The next morning Howie and I drove Chris to see Dr. Newman. After one hour of observing and Chris and talking with us, Dr. Newman determined that Chris’s psychotropic medication was no longer working.

“We need to wean him off that medication and phase in another type of psychotropic medication,” he told us.  “This will be another very critical time. I can’t predict what will happen,” he warned. He then instructed us to, “Take Chris to see his psychologist today. Also get the paperwork started at the hospital in case Chris has to be admitted again. Call me if anything changes.”

I didn’t know what the future held for Chris. But it was enough that I knew Who held his future. God had been our stability during this instability. He’d continue to carry us through whatever was in store.

♦♦♦♦♦♦

Yes, life with MI can feel as flimsy as a house of cards. But God is our Rock and Stronghold.

“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies (Psalm 18:1-3).”

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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.

**********

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.

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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

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