“I have never claimed to be a perfect parent, but the love I have for my kids is beyond anything that I ever imagined possible… and the LOVE I have for them is the closest thing to perfection in my life!
Most days I find myself just worried about the normal things; did my kid shower, were they well fed, did they do their homework (or do they have homework?), are they sick, do they have good friends, am I doing ‘enough’, and do they know they are loved?!?
I tend to keep most of the heartache off of social media (no one needs to see that stuff) but I really feel I need to share my story about some recent events to help bring awareness to Mental Health and the HUGE need for MORE supports both in the health care system, and educational system for our ‘special’ kids AND parents.
One of my kids struggles more than most, and over the years has required a lot more support and time from me than his siblings. He is considered to be level 2 with FSCD, and by provincial/federal approval has significant delays which qualify him as a youth with high disabilities. Mental Health and Behavioral Diagnosis’ are not seen by the eye…these kids tend to fall between the cracks, and parenting them becomes difficult, and painful because we constantly see our kids struggling and not being given the support they need because they LOOK ‘normal’ and many times behave ‘normal’. This is exactly what I have experienced with my son for over 8 years since his first diagnosis. To those who know me well, they will know the name of this amazing child, and what an incredible young man he is – he is kind, loving, funny, socially a spitfire, and athletic like you wouldn’t believe!
And then there is what’s hard to believe:
- He has a hard time maintaining friendships with peers
- Is unable to concentrate on tasks at school and home
- Lacks emotions regulation
- Has violent episodes on a regular basis; hurting himself, others, and property
- Is unpredictable and irrational both verbally, physically and emotionally in episodes that last from several minutes to several hours
- Is in the 10th percentile for executive functioning
- ADHD, ODD, CD, Anxiety, and frontal lobe delay
Most of these fall within, or affect his mental health, and ALL of them are things I am constantly trying to find more supports, and advocating for whatever it is that I THINK he needs, because… who else will?
This is part of my son, but these disabilities will NEVER define my son, and I hope one day he can look back and see how much I love him, even in the moments where I’m sure my efforts to get him the help he needed created confusion, and maybe even pain for him.
Tuesday October 1st, 2019
Please know that this is the FIRST time I have shared in detail what happened… I have been hiding, holding and protecting myself from processing what I experienced, and am sharing because I think it’s a good start to share my story with the intention of it making a difference for someone else and Healing my own heart.
After 3 months of my son being in a family-support-home thru Disability Services, the day finally came where I would be taking my son to tour the All-Boys facility where he would be living for the next 9-18 months. This decision came with a LOT of heartache, questions and concerns because I want so desperately for my son to live at home, but we NEED more help, and he NEEDS therapeutic treatment to allow him to transition home in a family setting where our entire family can be safe. As his mom, and the main provider for him, this decision fell on me.. .it was a BURDEN for many months until I was able to see the facility myself weeks prior to this tour with my son, and during my own tour I knew this is where he needed to be, that it was going to be the best option for him.
The visit to this facility was difficult…my son struggled to regulate during the visit; he was angry that he wasn’t forewarned (when he actually had been), he was anxious (because the out of home placement hadn’t been monitoring his medications for over TWO weeks, and he was secretly stashing his meds in his backpack! That’s an entirely different story!) And most of his emotions were coming out in anger, defiance and refusal to have the proper (and mandatory tour) required by the boys that will be moving in. The staff was amazing though and he rushed my son thru the tour as fast as he could.
The car ride after was gut wrenching. We had a 45-minute drive because I was driving him to a recreation facility to play some sports for a bit until I would drive him back to his family support home a few hours later. The first half of the drive was quiet…I could FEEL the tears rolling down my cheeks, but I could HEAR my sons tears thru his covered face and cold body language. He was hurting and confused about what was about to come a few days later – the big move. Eventually we found some things to talk about, and some things to look forward to within the transition….we had some smiles (although they came slowly) and eventually we pulled up to the recreation center and when my son got out I felt a HUGE sigh of relief when he looked at me, told me he loved me, and closed the door. I was going to be picking him up in just 1 hour after his sisters swimming lesson.
Or at least that was the plan.
40 minutes later I was packing up my 6-year-old daughter at home getting ready to leave for the rec center where my son was, and where her swimming lesson was. I kept getting a call from a ‘blocked number’ and I DO NOT answer these, so I ignored them. Eventually, as I backed out of my driveway, the amount of calls I was getting gave me a bit of concern, so I answered on Bluetooth.
My son was crying, HARD, and I could hear a LOT of noise in the background… he definitely was NOT where I left him (at the rec center) …it sounded like wind, or traffic???
‘X’? Where are you? What’s wrong?’
‘Mom, I need you to promise me that I can come home.’
Even in the pain I could hear my son in, I couldn’t promise him this… I couldn’t LIE to my son and tell him he could come home. I spent the next few minutes pleading for him to tell me where he was, but he hung up. He wouldn’t answer his phone.
And then I got to hear his voice again… he called me again…
‘Mom, I need you to know how much I love you; I really do love you. But I can’t do this anymore. I’m at a bridge, and I’m going to jump. I love you.’ The emotion in his voice was unbearable
Let me tell you…that even WRITING those words makes my heart break and gives me FEAR in my bones that I NEVER want to feel again. I can’t describe it better than a full body shaking, emotionally cold, dizzy, intensely painful moment where ONE you have NO IDEA where your child is and TWO you know they are in an emotionally unpredictable state, THREE did I really just hear my son say that?! And my 6-year-old daughter just heard that?!?! And FOUR….the bridge I am about to drive across….is this where he is at?!?
MOM MODE – No time to cry. Call my mom, tell her to call my son. ‘call ‘X’, he said he’s about to jump.’ Call 911. Park the car in the middle of the bridge Get out. Prepare to see my child… MY CHILD… how do I explain to 911 whats going on, and also hold onto the side of this bridge to look for my CHILD below.
I don’t recall how many horns I heard, I just remember seeing my vehicle blocking all the cars and remembering my daughter was in the backseat. But i couldn’t console her, I couldn’t do anything but try not to panic when my entire body was breaking because I was so scared.
Even before police were dispatched, a police car pulled up behind me on the bridge and in that moment i just remembering not knowing what to do but BEG them to go look for my son on the other side. Emotionally DEMANDING they run across 4 lanes of heavy traffic while I talk to 911 and try to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing.
WHERE WAS MY SON?!?!
Writing this brings back every physical and emotional feeling I felt in that moment. This is HARD, and I KNOW I need help (professionally) to process what I experienced as a mom in those moments… I don’t remember whether it was minutes or hours, but I know it was way too long.
Eventually, over those next minutes I hung up the phone from 911, and broke down with the police, some of it being relief that I wasn’t alone and I now had help, and part of me out of fear because this wasn’t the bridge… this was not where he was at. I never for a second hoped that was where I would find my son, but NOT knowing was even more difficult because the thoughts that raced thru my head were painful.
Was I too late?
Should I have lied to him and told him he could come home?
Did he just need me to lie to him and I couldn’t?
COULD he come home if I found him?
Where did my son go in less than 40 minutes from me dropping him off…how far away was I from him, and WHY WON’T HE ANSWER HIS PHONE?!?!
And then another call. ‘Just’ my mom. I don’t remember what she said, but I DO remember she said something like ‘’He said he needs you’.
And then… He called me, or maybe I called him…but his voice was trembling, and he still wouldn’t tell me where he was. He just cried, and just kept telling me he loved me, and he had to do this, and I continued to calmly tell him I just needed to know where he was, and that I loved him SO much!
And then, another hangs up.
Over the next moments… again, minutes or maybe an hour…the police had me move my vehicle up the road, I turned my emotional light-switch off and lied to my daughter convincing her what she heard, and saw was NOT what she heard or saw… calming her tears, explaining to her that her brother was NOT going to die, and that he said his PHONE was dying and he was jumping his PHONE off the bridge because he was just mad at me. I let her see me smile, I let her see me calm, and I let her see me completely in control with explanations for the police etc. So, SHE would be okay when really my heart was pounding out of my chest and my body felt a pain that came from direct fear… but SHE couldn’t see that. I called her dad in desperation to pick her up, I called my mom to come to where I was with the police for the makeshift ‘BASE’ and I waited for police to try finding out where he was by tracking his cellphone. I had to provide them his description…
Long sleeve white shirt, khaki pants, white and grey shoes, grey Champion backpack, black Bass Pro ball cap, short brown hair, minor facial scars, 5’4, 130lbs. My son.
His cellphone… tracked to a cellphone tower near South Edmonton Common, and then also location pinned directly over-top of Calgary Trail, and 23rd ave.
A Bridge, a REALLY BIG BRIDGE. On the bridge? Under the bridge?
A decision… I HAD to wait for my daughter to get picked up. There was NO WAY I would risk my daughter seeing something that she would never forget because I raced over there not knowing what I would be arriving to – thankfully her dad showed up, police gave him an overview because I couldn’t talk, and right when I started to calm my daughter in his truck, my son calls. He told me where he was, he told me he needed me, and asked me to come get him.
The next few hours were a whirlwind, the police drove me to where he was, a surreal moment to see the child I just agonized over for the past many minutes/hours? The pain and fear didn’t go away though…to be honest, I think it’s still all inside me even though I know my son is okay and now in a safe place. No one can ever tell me ‘He didn’t do it at least’… because that doesn’t take away the fear that he would have, or could have, or intended too…or would again, and WILL again, for another time, or the last time?
For everything I felt in those moments, I can only TRY to guess what my SON experienced in those moments – the pain, hurt, confusion, sadness, horror, loneliness… how do you keep those types of emotions in ‘check’ when you already are unable to regulate emotions that would just be ‘typical’? My heart breaks just thinking about what HE had to have felt…but I sure am rejoicing that at the end of that experience the LOVE I have for my son was what he NEEDED and what won out. He just needed ME, and BOY OH BOY have I ALWAYS been there and ALWAYS will be.
GOD IS GOOD!
My son is now enrolled in a 6-18-month facility that provides a massive amount of therapies and support for him and eventually he will be transitioned home.
Why am I sharing this???
Mental health affects a LOT of people…some temporarily, some it’s a daily part of life. For our family, it’s a daily fear, because in our ‘normalcy’, and ‘outward appearance’ we love and are raising together a special needs child who you would never know struggles the way he does with Mental Health and Behavioral diagnosis’. You don’t see what we struggle with on a daily basis, and as a mom…you don’t know the pain my heart feels when I watch my teenage son violently have episodes.
I DO NOT give a crap out a hole in the wall, a broken item, even some bruises on my body that come from safely restraining him. What I DO care about is keeping my SON safe, and the other people in our home SAFE. There isn’t always a FIX for what goes on in someone’s brain, and some are just wired differently. We have the fear of him being unpredictable, never knowing when an episode is triggered or WHY, and what he will try to do. The older he gets, the more I worry about what he is capable of.
It’s an amazing thing to TALK about what we experience and share personal (and even humiliating) stories about things we have gone thru so we can BREAK the stigma around MENTAL HEALTH and what that REALLY means! My son should have been receiving consistent care for YEARS but that isn’t the case….our schools and health care system tend to focus more on the disabilities the EYES can see and less on the disabilities the BRAIN hides but mental health can’t be pushed aside anymore, and our KIDS need to have more access to better care…24-7 care, CARE in crisis, support for parents and much more focus on how to help families caring for a child with this type of disability so NO PARENT ever has to experience what I did just a few days ago.
My son is okay. He’s here for me to hug, here for me to love… just a 45-minute drive away and in a place with a LOT of help.
My daughter is struggling to process (and believe) my cover up for what happened that day… but she’s okay, and her school has offered to have the school counselor talk to her, and FSCD has provided additional Psychologist sessions so I can have her get some professional help if I’m concerned.
I am NOT okay. This is the first time I have really put my experience out there, and it was HARD to write. There was already so much going on in my life that this just seemed to push my heart lower, and I KNOW I need to reach out for proper help to heal and grieve. YES, grieve, I didn’t lose my son that day, but the fear and pain doesn’t go away just because I got to him in time. The Gut-wrenching pain is still here…and I 100% feel like I have to get thru this on my own… even with my faith in God and knowing how much love I have around me from family and friends. No one gets it, NO one would get it unless they experienced it for themselves.”
[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there. You are not alone.]
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sherry Oleksyn, 34, of Canada. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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