Monday, May 16, 2011

We Were Not Always Like This

Right now, we've circled back to a really difficult struggle to deescalate T's behavior and get him some mental health support. With the brief and urgent distraction of my surgery behind us, I have a renewed ability to focus on his needs, and what I see startles me.

He is not doing okay lately. In layperson's terms, he seems "lit up". His energy isn't right. He is utterly defiant in an uncharacteristic way. He has always been a strong, stubborn, risk-taking guy, but he is frankly self-destructive right now. He writes us letters and makes speeches sweetly professing that everything is going to change and he's going to get it together. Then that same day, he'll get wasted, steal, skip school and refuse to come home when asked. This has happened several times in the last month. With two court cases pending against him, and his refusal to cooperate with the things he must do to appease the court, I feel really worried for him.

Last week, when he started waking up and leaving the house at 4 am on school days to get marijuana and money on the streets and bragging about it, a switch flipped for me. I knew I needed to get help to protect us and to help T. I wrote to DCFS and his therapists for the second time in a few months. I used the code words that I've learned triggers help (and funding, and access) from the Department of Mental Health. I said: "I believe he is a danger to himself" and "If you do not respond I will continue to elevate this concern because I believe you have been negligent in providing for his needs." I'm a squeaky wheel.

It is very painful to do this. T is not a hoodlum. He makes very poor, even dangerous decisions fairly often, and yet he doesn't do so with the casual chronic bad attitude of a juvenile delinquent. He vacillates wildly, between sweet, loving behavior and rage. I believe he is scared - I can see it in his face and in his habits. It is gut-wrenching to see him try so hard and descend into such disarray. I have seen him in recent months struggle to talk about the prolonged abuse that happened in his early childhood and why it has been on his mind recently. I know some of the detail of what happened to him and it cuts deep and cannot help but create psychological vulnerability. He got as far as he could in therapy in recent months, and then he quit, telling me that he just couldn't stand to talk about what happened to him, and his behavior went off the charts.

I'm not a perfect parent right now. Both Tim and I have trouble with this level of sustained drama. It's hard for us to understand the crime - we grew up with clear, consistent, non-negotiable morality. Try as we might to maintain limits and rational consequences and to communicate unconditional love, we get tired and our emotions take over. When T. cusses at me and tells me he doesn't have to do anything I ask and refuses to give me space when he is raging at me, I feel trapped. I want to punish him. I want to control him. His rage tends to fix on me, because I am the closest target and I'm female. When I set limits these days, he often replies that " it's my fucking house too" and "I'll do what the fuck I want." It's hard to take. The person I am in that moment is not the person I want to be when I calm down and get some space.

I know he is in there and I know he's in pain. I did not expect to "save" him and I was ready for difficulty and pretty tapped into compassion. But we've gone beyond what I'm able to flex to tolerate. I'm working right now on asking for/insisting on help and creating an environment where we are not exploited and he is not neglected. That is a very hard balance to strike. I think it will require a small army. If he is not able to stay at home right now, I hope he will leave knowing he is loved and that we are still his people. Please wish us luck.


Anonymous said...

Oh, Friend, I am so very sorry. I really am. And I know that doesn't help your situation whatsoever.

Your T. sounds so much like my Older kid. I know I have said that before. I think you are right when you say he is afraid. He is blessed to have your commitment. He knows he has it, but he is going to test it again. And he will find out--again--that you and Tim are the ones who always has his back.

GB's Mom said...

My surgery has always been a big trigger for my kids that were attaching.I hope they get him help fast. He is lucky to have such a good advocate on his side. Be nice to yourself... your role isn't easy either. {{{Hugs}}}

Mama Drama Times Two said...

Wishing you all more than luck: peace and clarity of thought in the midst of pain and rage, safe boundaries, gentle hearts and open doors.

Last Mom said...

Thinking of you and your family. I hope you get resources, help and answers soon.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry and I'm thinking of you. I wish I had more than that.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god. Lulu, I'm consistently amazed by your insight, your wisdom, and your compassion. I can only imagine how squeezed your heart is watching T go through this horrible pain. I'm sorry. I'm wishing you more than luck; I'm wishing you peace and a man-child who comes to peace too.

jaenkes said...

While most kids get more excited as the end of high school approaches... I bet T is terrified. I know there are many other factors as well, but that's one I think of. Great job being the proactive squeeky wheel... I'm learning that myself. :)

Julia said...

I have nothing to relate to your situation but my own boys have behaved badly as they neared the end of school and moving on. I think it's a way to protect/prepare themselves. "they" do say that they take it out on the person they love most. I used to think, "wow, do I really need to be loved this much?" I have the utmost respect for you having read through your blog over the last several months. I'm sure it's draining, given your medical situation as well. I have not one single doubt that you will proceed with love and caution and that every decision you make will be based in love.

Semi-feral Mama said...

Well Mama Drama said what I wanted to (only better)... so ditto.
And squeak until you have no squeak left. But please take care of yourself.

mikeco said...

I'd like to ditto mama drama too :)
and I wanted to send good wishes to you, Tim and T.

Anonymous said...

song by Patty Griffin - made me think of your family -please feel free to ignore :)

marythemom said...

It's so hard watching them self-destruct, especially when we're so close that they can easily take us with them. We have to step back to avoid being hurt in the blast, but at the same time we have to hold them tight and let them know we love them no matter what.

Please remember too that trauma messes up their brain chemistry and can make their brain addictive. Our son is doing better with his addictions when we get his brain chemistry right.

Big hugs!


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