Subtitle: My brain is tired and that’s the best I can come up with.
I can’t even tell you how many thousands of words I’ve written over the past two weeks. It’s been a nearly daily struggle to express the thoughts and feelings rioting in my head in any coherent form. Today feels like it’s the day to finally get them out.
Two weeks ago yesterday, TN and I checked our son into a day into a day program at a local hospital for treatment of depression and anxiety. It’s been coming for awhile but we were hoping that therapy would help. Under advisement from his therapist, we finally made the decision to get him more intensive help. We could see the light in eyes get dimmer and dimmer and we knew couldn’t wait any longer. Over the past two weeks, he has spent 11 days on a locked ward doing five hours of group and individual therapy, learning coping skills, improving his communication skills, and identifying his triggers. He’s done art therapy and practiced mindfulness. He’s talked, he’s listened and he’s done the work they’ve required of him at home.
He’s also been exposed to kids who have attempted suicide, who have scars from cutting (so much cutting!) and all sorts of things you never want your 10 year old to know about let alone hear and see first hand. In a sadly perverse way, those experiences have been beneficial for him. When he was at his lowest and believed his life could never be better, he still didn’t consider suicide or cutting. He now realizes that as low as he felt, there are others who have experienced far worse. He’s always been a very empathic kid and that jolt seemed to help him realize that his life wasn’t so bad after all.
TN and I deal with stressors very differently, so of course I was worried how this would affect our relationship. We’ve been down a similar road with our older son and we clashed often because of our different styles. Maybe clash is the wrong word. There were definitely arguments about stupid stuff, but mostly we just existed together. We held hands and cried on each other’s shoulders, but there was no intimacy. We were a united front to our child showing him that we would do anything we could to help him, but the distance between us was alarming. Our bedroom was completely dead during this time and I don’t remember, but I suspect we didn’t have sex for close to a year.
On the drive to pick up our son at the end of his first day, we were quiet for most of it. And then I whispered that I was worried we wouldn’t survive another period like that the last one. He promised that this time wouldn’t be the same. That we were stronger now. That we know what we’re dealing with. That we’re different people in a different place.
I was leery after the way he had spent the day. I know that him shutting down for a few hours is how is overactive brain copes. I also know that after that happens repeatedly, I get resentful. I start to feel like I have to support him so much that I cannot deal with my own grief and worry. (He never asks for that, but my way of coping with stress is to take charge, find solutions, work, work, work to the detriment of my own emotional well being.) Obviously neither of our methods are stellar, but we are who we are. My son’s descent into depression and the ensuing angry behavior that resulted have been hard to handle, but overall I did a better job coping with it this time. (Barring an embarrassingly long and obnoxious display of anger in a Twitter exchange a few weeks ago.)
I’d love to report that things were completely different this time and in some ways they were. We are definitely stronger as a couple now. We didn’t have nearly as many petty arguments and the few we had fizzled out without lingering anger and resentment. We do know what we’re dealing with and have maintained a more optimistic and realistic outlook. And yet, things are the sadly the same. He withdraws into his mind and video games too much, leaving me feeling alone and like I’m carrying the weight of the world. I’ve buried a lot of my feelings about the whole situation and only cried briefly once. I’d like to think that it’s because I’m in such a better place emotionally, but I’m not positive that’s the reason. I’ve had to push him for intimacy and he’s been more than content simply cuddling, which ultimately ends up feeding my own insecurities and anxiety about the state of our relationship.
On the plus side, our son was discharged this afternoon and is quite literally a different kid. The twinkle is back in his eyes. He laughs more. He tells us when something we say or do bothers him. His delightfully wicked, dry sense of humor is back and he’s making all of us laugh again. Having battled my own depression, I know this isn’t the end of it for him. It takes effort every single day to maintain balance. I hate that he will likely deal with this his whole life, but I am optimistic that he has the tools to do that now. We will continue to love him, support him and get him the help he needs.
Despite how thrilled I am that the crisis is past and how well Son2 is doing, there’s a part of me that’s more anxious now. I don’t like how easily we reverted to old (bad) habits. I am worried that we’ve lost a lot of ground and that it will take a long time to regain it. I’m scared that we’ve become complacent about intimacy and this has become our new normal. I’m even more scared that TN thinks that’s OK.
A friend once told me that even when my posts are about difficult topics, he can always see my inherent optimism in them. (I tend to see myself as more pragmatic, but there’s definitely a new level of optimism that has emerged the past couple of years.) Since right now my only optimism is for my son, I guess it’s time to fake it till I make it. I don’t really have another choice because I’m not giving up on TN and this life we’ve been rebuilding.
But tonight? Tonight I’m going to pour a glass of wine, take a bubble bath and cry all the tears I’ve been holding inside for the past few weeks. Tomorrow I’ll put on a smile and start again.