A Mother’s Letter

Dear Readers:
This heartfelt letter from a mother, with a son who has a psychiatric diagnosis, tells of her love for her son and her ongoing experience as she and her husband walk beside her son as he travels his path.  The rollercoaster she rides as she takes this journey is one that is common to many of us who love and support someone with a mental health disorder.  Thank you to our dear friend whose name we have withheld to respect the privacy of her family.

Dear friend – may you go from strength to strength in your journey with you beloved son.
From Judith and your friends at Spark of Brilliance

Dearest Judith,
I am sitting here, with tears running down my cheeks, having just read the presentation that you gave to the Coping with Crisis Conference. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your honesty and courage…what you shared has touched my heart on so many levels.

In the fall of 2009, our son, who lives with us, stopped taking his meds (totally unbeknownst to my husband and me). He did so on a gradual basis, skipping every third or fourth day for awhile, then every second day, and finally stopping altogether. Over the course of those several weeks, we started to see changes in his behaviour, but he assured us and his psychiatrist that he was taking his meds and was just feeling tired and out of sorts. Three weeks before Christmas of 2009, he had a full-blown psychotic break. He was hospitalized for only 5 days and then discharged to our care. His first words to my husband and me were, “Will you ever trust me again?”

Our son had been medication compliant for 11 years, ever since his first hospitalization (4 months) in London, ON. His mantra was “I take my meds and I feel well; I feel well because I take my meds”. He would tell us how disappointed he felt when he heard about a client who had crashed because they had stopped taking their medication. Despite all that we knew about the statistics and the insidious nature of the illness, somehow over the course of those 11 years, my husband and I allowed ourselves to be lulled into a false reality. Because our son had been medication adherent for 11 years, we truly believed that we would not ever have to think about the possibility of him deciding to stop taking his meds. Big mistake on our part, for sure.

My husband and I say all too often that we cannot die, because who would look out for our son in the way that we have done and continue to do? The thought of us not being around to insure his needs are met scares us to the core.

Judith, I am writing this email from my parents’ home.  I was visiting my daughter when I received a call from my mother, telling me that my 86 year-old Dad had been hospitalized for a kidney issue and had suddenly taken a turn for the worse. My daughter and I flew to him., arriving the a.m. of Jan. 7th. Dad was in CCU, but was making incremental progress. My daughter stayed for one week and then returned to her home…I made the decision to stay on for a bit and be of support to Mom and Dad. Long story short, Dad continued to improve, but remained in hospital. I was with him everyday from 11 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., so that Mom could rest. During that time, Dad and I shared lots of laughs and we had many great talks. The afternoon of February 17th, he slipped away while taking his nap. I was there with him. It was peaceful and merciful. He would never have wanted to linger in a nursing home. I am so grateful that I was able to have those 42 days with him, and ever so grateful that my husband and son supported me in the decision to stay on.

When I depart for my home, it will be difficult to leave Mom ….the thought of her staying on this big old home alone concerns me greatly…but it is time for me to rejoin my family. My three brothers do not live in the same town as Mom and I am a bona fide member of the sandwich generation…caring for an elderly parent and an adult child.

Thank you again for telling your story…and Jay’s story. You are an inspiration to us all.

Keep well and please stay in touch.

Hugs.

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