Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Universe of Love in Pieces

I remember bringing him home from the hospital, wrapped tightly in his brand new receiving blankets, so tiny he could fit in the palm of my husband's hand. He was my first child; the love I felt for him from the moment I laid eyes on his scrawny wrinkled body cannot be described.  Love is too small a word to describe the new universe of emotion that exploded within me in that single second. It was as if every heartbeat that I had now belonged completely to another being.  There was no sacrifice too great; no amount of pain too intense. No mountain was too insurmountable when it came to protecting him.  It was the purest and truest form of emotion I had ever experienced.  There are no real words to sum the expanse and the depth of that feeling.  Every mother throughout history has tried to find the words and failed.  As I looked at the most beautifully wrinkled  alienesque being that  I had ever seen, I whispered over and over "Mama loves you so much.  You are so precious.  I will keep you safe. I love you
I whispered those words through round the clock feedings, through scary illnesses, through first steps,  new siblings, meltdowns, first words, first days of school, developmental problems, eventual Autism diagnosis, long nights of homework, more meltdowns, homeschooling,  surgery, mental breakdowns and eventual mental illness diagnosis.  I whispered those words as I fought for accommodations at the schools. I whispered them as I cried quietly in the night, my heart breaking for his struggles.  I whispered them when I could no longer hug him because the feel of anyone touching him was almost painful to him. I whispered them as he cried for the loss of his dreams of normalcy.  I whispered them nightly over him after his anxiety finally settled and he fell asleep.  I have whispered those words so often that I'm sure to him they are route and hold little meaning. But each time I say "I love you, my precious boy. Mama is here. I'll protect you.",  I once again feel that universe of emotion expanding, trying to reach through my very soul and somehow make the the world understand just what this boy, now nearly a man, means to me.
So what happened I could no longer protect him from his own mind, when his disability threatened his siblings who have their own universes swirling around my soul? What happens when you have to choose the safety of the many over the protection of your precious child, who though almost grown still possesses the heart of a child?  Unfortunately, I know the answer to these questions.  I know what it is to have to shatter your own soul into pieces for the safety of all whom you love.
Our family is a family of unicorns.  All five of my boys are on the autism spectrum to some degree and have various mental health co-morbid conditions.  My oldest child was diagnosed as having Gifted Asperger's (now gifted high functioning autism) in Kindergarten.  He always had major anxiety and OCD tendencies but we were able to manage them.  However once he hit 13, he had a full metal break.  A perfect storm of events coalesced to drive him that point but telling that story would require an entire book, not one chapter.
His breakdown made it so that he could no longer leave our house without severe panic attacks, the simplest things would set off large, uncontrollable meltdowns. We lived years always on edge, emergency meds within reach, waiting for the next thing to set him off.  The most heart wrenching part of this was that my son has always had a soft heart; he would never purposely harm a fly.  But when his brain chemistry would go awry, he was no longer in control of his actions.  Our saving grace was that he was still small enough that we were able to physically restrain him when he was in danger of hurting himself or one of his siblings. That small reprieve lasted only a short time. At 14 he hit a growth spurt that still has not ended; at 17 he was 6'2 and 300lbs.   Still, we were able to keep everyone safe by being ever vigilante to separate the boys when they would start to work each other up, as brothers are want to do. We had them all on a strict regiment of medications to deal with their various issues and had emergency meds on hand to be administered at the first sign he or his sibling was starting to spiral.
It was a well monitored powder keg, waiting to explode.  We could only hope that we would be able to minimize the damage when it finally went off.  Then the inevitable happened and all our contingency plans were not enough.  The powder keg exploded.
It was evening, the most liable time of day in our home because everyone's medications are starting to wear off.  The boys were getting ready to watch a movie and drink hot chocolate.  It was a an ordinary evening.  Nothing seemed amiss.  Then, out of the blue my oldest son and my youngest son were at each other's throats, loudly arguing (about what is still debated to this day).  In a 'normal' family, this would just be brothers being brothers and it could be dealt with as such.  But in our home there are too many variables, too many syndromes and disorders that exasperate one another.  In our home a normal, brotherly, argument can lead to week long in-patient stays on the mental health ward.  My husband and I both moved quickly to intervene.  In the few seconds that it  took us to reach the boys, the argument had become physical.  We separated them, gave them each an emergency med and sent them to their separate bedrooms to calm down.  The plan was once they had calmed down we would deal with whatever had caused the ruckus to begin with. In the past, this plan of action had worked well.  However, on this particular evening, my oldest son decided he was not going to go to his room, that he was too old to be told what to do.  Again, this is a normal thing for teenagers to do, every parent faces a moment when their teenager challenges their authority.  Unfortunately in our home, normal behaviors can become extreme in an instant. This was one of those instances.  When we insisted he go to his room until he was calm, our son began to physically attack his father, my husband.  My oldest is 2 inches taller and 50lbs heavier than his dad.  Restraining him was not an option, he was no longer in control of his actions.  Talking to him, only increased the outside stimulation, pushing him further into his meltdown and he was not stopping.
In that moment I had no choice but to make the most difficult call of my life.  On that night, I broke that whispered promise I had uttered thousands of times to my son.  That night I fractured my soul into hundreds of pieces as I had to choose between the safety of my husband and other children and protecting my oldest from actions he could no longer control.   I picked up the phone and I called the police. While on the phone I informed them that my so was a minor and autistic. I requested a mental health officer come out on the call.  The 911 operator was amazing and passed on all the information to the responding officers.
Three big officers arrived at our home in a matter of minutes.  Thankfully by the time they arrived, his emergency medication had started to take affect. He was still emotional but he was no longer being violent.  The officers were amazing with him.  They talked to him calmly and stayed as he continued to calm.   Instead of being arrested, I was able to bring him to the hospital his psychiatrist works out of.
It worked out in the best possible way but the fact remains I called armed police into my home to protect the rest of my family from my son.  I had made a choice and in that choice, his protection had come secondary to the safety of everyone (including him).
I've only had to call the police about him on one other occasion.  We have been blessed that in both instances we had amazing and caring officers come out.  They understood my son's issues and worked with us.  But both of those situations could have gone very differently.  He could have become more agitated.  He could have had to be restrained. He could have been arrested.  He could have had these things on his criminal record. As a mother, this was the hardest choice I have ever had to make.  It shattered pieces of my soul that I didn't know could be shattered.
Still I would not change the choice I made.  It was the right decision to make.  Sometimes we as mom's cannot protect our children from their actions, even when those actions are driven by  brain chemistry they cannot control.  Sometimes protecting them is outweighed by saving them and/or others.  And sometimes we simply are not enough to do both.  Sometimes that universe of love looks like our heart breaking into a thousand pieces.  Sometimes that love looks like calling the police on your own child, the same child you held within your body for 9 months, in your arms through their growing up years and in your heart , and all it's pieces, forever.

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