The House was too Quiet
The house was so quiet. It’s never that quiet. I could even hear the clock ticking from across the room. When my son James is home, there is always some sort of background noise going on. So, knowing he was alone in his bedroom, the quiet shook me. As I worked my way up the stairs, I doubled my speed. My heart began to pound as I reached his door and there he was, not moving. Just there. I touched him and he didn’t move. It took a second for my brain to catch up with what I was seeing. My beautiful baby – the joy of my heart – was laying there unconscious and turning blue with a belt wrapped so tight around his neck. Before my eyes, he was dying. I screamed.
Death was dancing all around and all hope had been sucked out of the room by a mighty vortex of darkness. My hands trembling, I grabbed at the belt but it was too tight to even slip my fingers in-between his neck to loosen. I screamed again. Grabbing his shirt I pulled him up causing his 175 frame to flop forward limp like a rag doll. I grabbed the ends of the belt, unwound it and once it finally came away from his neck I threw it as far away from my son as I could. The weight of his limp body fell forward, and as it did, I heard him take a strained, long deep breath.
So many other parents just like me have found their child and never heard that long deep breath. I can’t even begin to imagine their sorrow. I can’t even comprehend it as my sorrow is so deep today I feel as though my heart will burst at any moment. The pain and sorrow I feel over my son’s mental illness, the depth of suffering he endures and the devastating choice he made to end it all crushes me.
I AM NOT ASHAMED
Tears flow constantly – endlessly really. I feel incapable of doing almost anything except what is right in front of me. The temptation is to hide in shame – but I refuse to do that. I’m not ashamed of my son. Nor am I ashamed of our struggle as a family. We’ve walked years changed mightily by mental illness. Mental illness is not my son however. He is pure, lovely, gentle, funny, and the very joy of my heart. The mental illness he suffers with comes to rob him of all of those things. That is why we fight so hard to bring balance to his mind and peace to his soul. That is why, even with an endless stream of tears and trembling hands I choose to write now. If I shed a light on our most painful moments, perhaps more funding, more research, more compassion, more help and more understanding will come.
My son, my beautiful son, is hospitalized right now. Last night as I visited him he tried with all his might to curl as much of his 6 foot 1, 175 pound frame into my arms. He whispered, “Mommy, I’m scared.” As I held him and whispered back as many words of comfort, unconditional love, acceptance and prayers of peace as I could, I felt his body relax just a little. I will always believe truth, acceptance, and unconditional love beat back the darkness and are the beginning of restoration of his broken soul.
We have a long way to go. And I don’t know how we’re going to do it. I cannot clearly see the road before us. God does though. So, instead of trying to figure it all out, I’m putting my trust in Him. We’re trusting He’s capturing all of our tears because each is precious to Him. (Psalm 56:8). We’re hoping that somehow, even in this, He will turn ashes into beauty. (Isaiah 61:3). For now though, we are so brokenhearted and the only comfort we find is knowing God is close. (Psalm 34:18) To survive the almost unbearable pain of today, I guess that knowledge is all we need.
Mental Illness is real and impacts millions of families world-wide. It’s time to take it out of the shadow and to talk about it. People who are precious, wanted needed and loved are choosing to end their lives because they feel invisible, hopeless and helpless. Families like mine, who already have extensive help, need even more. We. Must. Do. Better. We must be able to stand tall and from our cores say, I AM NOT ASHAMED.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hide any longer in the shadows. You are beautiful, amazing, lovely, important, wanted and needed. You are here for a mighty purpose – to change this world. You have so much give – and the world needs to learn from you. Let your uniqueness shine for all to see. You are beautiful – you are loved! Stand tall and feel the strength in saying, I AM NOT ASHAMED.
Today, I’m spending the day loving my daughter who is staying home from school. Tonight I will head to the hospital for visiting hours and love on my son. Step, by step, we will rebuild and heal. By God’s grace we will find hope again. I will keep writing – because as long as I do – the shame that tries to envelop our family and all other families who struggle with mental illness is pushed further and further away.
My love always,