Family and friends often ask, “How’s Drew?”
I wish I could say, “Phenomenal.” In reality, he’s okay, and I remind myself of our baby steps forward.
In 2015, we faced Hospitalization #5, and I pulled the you-can-no-longer-live-at-home-unless-you-take-medicine card. Drew now accepts that he hears voices, and I accompany him to monthly appointments with his psychiatrist for an extended-release, anti-psychotic injection. It’s not perfect, but it helps. Like clockwork the auditory hallucinations become increasingly loud and mean about a week before his shot, and they stick around for about a week afterwards. The voices within taunt Drew. They yell at him. They cuss at him. Drew responds. He taunts, yells, and cusses right back. I’ve learned not to take the outbursts personally, but I can’t shake that sensation of pressure on my breastbone and the deep piercing of my heart, so I pray—for his peace and mine and Kody’s and our dog Rain, who hides under the bed. Two good weeks. Two restless weeks. At least I don’t have to oversee the daily swallowing of a pill or worry about him cheeking it and spitting it out.
His psychiatrist, Dr. Lee, invites me in to their monthly appointment, and after chatting about music for a while, he says things like this, “Are you having any anxiety?”
Drew responds, “No.”
“Any crying spells?”
“Do you hear any voices?
I nod my yes in the background. Drew hesitates before saying, “Yeah. Sometimes.”
“But, do you feel you can manage them?”
“Good. That’s good,” Dr. Lee says before wrapping up the session. “You know, Andrew, I think you are doing really well, and ten years from now, I think you’ll be doing even better. Medicines are improving. They are always researching. Who knows? You go to sleep one night, and you wake up the next morning to a cure.”
I’m thankful for this doctor. I’m thankful for our current medication that has kept us from the inside of a hospital for the past three years. I’m thankful for resources at my fingertips at the click of a button. I’m thankful for a God who keeps my perspective in check and gives me hope.
This May (Mental Health Awareness Month), I found the prayer below on another mom/mental health advocate’s Facebook page. The original author is unknown, and I searched unsuccessfully to locate the source. However, I found it posted on schizophrenia.com as early as October 2004 again on Nouwen-network.com, an Australian site solely for resources on the theme of mental illness, ministry, prayer, and spirituality. I’ve been this mom, if not all at once, at least at times along the way, and so I pass her prayer to others needing the words—to others needing hope.
A Mother’s Prayer for Mental Illness
As I stumble from my bed this morning, help me to remember to be gentle and kind.
My child’s mind is shredding into a million pieces. He lives in a constant state of atrocious fear. I can see it in his eyes. Give him peace.
Guide me as I hold him in my arms. Help me to know what to say. What to do. Fill my heart with healing love, understanding, and empathy.
Give me the strength of a thousand angels to hold back my tears. My heart is broken and a tidal wave of grief is overwhelming me with the need to cry. Give me the strength to bear it long enough to keep it from disturbing my child. Help me find someone I can safely bring it to.
Help me answer my family’s questions with the same amount of compassion I would want for myself. Help me remember they are hurting too. This is an unwelcomed assault on an entire family. My heart is not the only heart that is broken. We all need time and each other to heal.
As my journey becomes more and more isolative and lonely, remind me that the lack of involvement on the part of family and friends is not always because of the stigma and the ignorance. For many, it is because they are hurting too. They have the privilege of turning to their own lives. This is my family’s life now. I must deal with it whether I am hurting or not.
Send me your best physicians and healers. Give me presence of mind, as I walk through the exhaustion of my grief to not settle for just any one no matter how tiresome the journey becomes.
Help me adjust to the idea, that although it appears my son is gone, there will be no goodbye. And that he is still inside somewhere waiting for us to find him.
Infuse the creative part of my mind with solution oriented thinking. Give me hope. Even if it is just a glimmer of hope. A mother can go for miles on just one tiny glimmer. Let me see just a flicker of the sparkle of joy in his eyes.
Guide my hands, calm my mind, as I fill out the multitude of forms for services. Then help me do it again over and over.
Provide me with the knowledge. Lead me to the books I need to read, the organizations I need to connect with. As you work though the people in my life, help me to recognize those that are here to help. Help me trust the right ones. Shine a light upon the right path.
Give me the courage to speak my truth; to know my son’s truth. And to speak for him when he is unable to do it for himself. Show me when to do for him what he is not capable of doing for himself. Help me to recognize the difference.
Help me to stand tall in the face of the stigma; to battle the discrimination with the mighty sword of a spiritual warrior. And to deflect the sting of blame and faultfinding from the ignorant and the cruel.
Preserve my love for my family. Shield my marriage with the wisdom of the love that brought us together.
Protect him from homelessness, loneliness, victimization, poverty, hunger, hopelessness, relapse, drugs, alcohol, suicide, cruelty and obscurity.
Lead us to the miracles of better medications, better funding, better services, safe and plentiful housing, meaningful employment, communities who care, enlightenment. Help us to find some way to replace all the greed with humanitarian work and intrinsic reward again.
Most of all, give me the strength to deliver whatever I can to the work of unmasking the man made ugliness of this disease and revealing the human and all of it’s suffering beneath.
Finally, when it is my time to leave my son behind, send a thousand angels to take my place.
Can I get an amen? Thank you for reading today and especially during the month of May. Thank you for taking time to try to understand the brain as a vital, potentially malfunctioning organ. And most of all thank you for your prayers and support for Drew and others with schizophrenia, 1.1% of the population, roughly 51 million worldwide.