It’s Been Over Four Weeks
It’s been over four weeks since my son quietly walked into his room, grabbed the boy scout belt I bought him, wrapped it around his neck and hanged himself. Each night, in the stillness that fills my house, my mind reminds me of those horrible moments when I realized something was wrong. Was the house too still? Unlike average days, I couldn’t hear my James making his normal sounds in the other room. He wasn’t singing, or laughing, or anything. How many times in my life I’ve ached for total peace and quiet; for just a few minutes of silence. This silence lacked all peace and screamed to me that everything was utterly wrong. So wrong that when I reached his door, for just a split second, I hesitated before I turned the door knob afraid of what I might see.
Even Here, We Are Not Alone
There he was. My baby. Lifeless. Blue. Dying. Could it be that even here, we were not alone?
Even though I am one of the fortunate Mamas; I got there in time and was able to rip the belt away from my son’s neck and hear him gasp for breath again. I have to admit, as hard as life is right now, fortunate is a difficult word to use right now.
For the past month, James has cycled back and forth from euphoric highs to devastating lows. There have been one or two peaceful days where we have all rested and caught our breath, but for the most part, we have lived life braced for the next outburst, great blow-up, suicidal threat or drama filled day that leaves us all feeling emotionally pummeled and drained.
I’m watching my precious son unravel. The mental illness that has taken hold of him has a tight grip and no matter the interventions, medications, counseling, supervision, or structure; he continues to go deeper and deeper into the darkness. I’m losing him a little more each day, and as I feel him slipping away, my heart grieves even more deeply. I steadfastly believe, though – even here, we are not alone.
Mental illness takes the most beautiful souls and can turn them into someone who they are not. It damages their ability to use rational judgment, breeds paranoia, grows terror, and creates chaos where there instead could be peace. As a mother of a child with a severe mental illness, my goal every day is to find a way to bring God’s peace into James’ life. Sometimes I am successful; other times feel as though I have utterly failed. That doesn’t mean I stop trying, though.
God the Father Chose Love
When see how God the Father loves us unconditionally I see a perfect model for how I am to love and respond to my son James. God is holy, perfect and my sin separated me from him. Out of love, God, the father, made a way – a bridge of love and sacrifice – so that I (we) could know and love him intimately. That bridge was made when Jesus came, lived and then died on the cross for you and me. That was a sacrifice of unconditional love that tore down walls and opened up the way to hope, healing and eternity.
I Choose Love
When I see James, his mental illness often separates us. It builds walls, creates hurt, disillusionment and chaos that I hate. His mental illness exhausts me and often makes me want to run the other way instead of towards him. However, I have a living example in my life of a God who chose to love me at my very worst. Because of that, I am compelled to love my son at his very weakest. 1 Peter 4:8 says,
Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins [it overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others].
So, in my exhaustion, it is my greatest prayer that God will fill me with his passionate and unfailing love for my precious son James. There are no guarantees that James will ever stabilize or that I will ever truly see his gentle, sweet spirit again. However, by God’s grace, he will see God’s love and my tender loving mother’s heart every day of his life.
Loving a child gripped by mental illness is by far the most difficult thing the Lord has ever asked me to do. The tears I shed come quickly for dreams long forgotten, hopes dashed, fears realized, painful realities understood and grief so unbearable I feel it is too heavy to bear. I know it is during these times the Lord is close, and I fall gently into his arms knowing he will hold us tight. Yes, friends. Even here, we are not alone.
Someday, I know I will hold my son in Heaven – free from mental illness. Though I ache to do that now, I am aware I have to tarry with James in this unstable state for a very long time. There are millions of families just like mine that do that very same thing. So, for now, I persevere by choosing love, with the hope of Heaven clear in the forefront of my mind.
These days aren’t easy. They simply are mind-boggling hard. I’m weary, discouraged and often overwhelmed. By taking one day at a time, clinging to Jesus and his promises, following the examples of God the Father’s love and remembering the hope of Heaven, I know we will somehow get through. These aren’t fluffy, pretty times in our home. No, these are deep in the trenches, gut-wrenchingly painful, ugly, clinging to our faith with all we’ve got, battle weary moments. Even here, my friends, God is with us. Even here, we are not alone.
In closing, I say these final words. Though it is difficult to suffer with my son these days, I/we will not abandon him. Though his mental illness has him hidden behind the darkness, we never give up hope that he will come back to us someday and that he will live a stable life again. Even if he does not though, I hold the truth in my heart of who he is in my heart. He is a beautiful soul, kind and thoughtful. He is gentle, merciful and full of love. My sweet, sweet James will not lost to me. I hold him tight in my heart – even on the hard days.
I write these difficult blogs to share the heartache and truth about mental illness, and I am not ashamed, no, I am am never ashamed of my sweet James. He is my son, I and love him, with all of my heart.