I had been expecting the call. Finally, two and a half weeks ago it came. Not that I wanted it to come, but it didn’t surprise me. Over the last couple years, I’ve expected it. And dreaded it too.
When I first heard the news, I was remarkably calm. All business. What needs to be done? What are the steps we take now? Who do we call? What happens next? It took almost a week for the reality to set in. Prison. He is in prison. My 20 year old bipolar son has been arrested, charged with six felonies. My son is in prison.
They say there are five steps of grief: Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. And Acceptance. What I didn’t realize until now, is that these steps may occur out of order or simultaneously. In the past two and a half weeks I have experienced all five stages…sometimes all five in one day.
There have been moments of denial. Immersing myself in my work has allowed me to forget, that anything was wrong, if only for a few minutes at a time. Though my psychiatrist and my counselor have both urged me to consider taking a leave of absence, I’ve found that work is the only place where I have some peace. Teaching takes every ounce of energy I have. There is no time in my day for this nightmare to invade my mind.
And there has been anger. I’ve never been the angry type so this is a relatively uncommon sensation for me, but I have had moments where I could spit nails, so livid that he could do this to himself and his family. How in the world could he do something so stupid? How could he just throw away all of his potential like that? What in God’s name was he thinking?!
There has been bargaining too, with myself and with the situation. I’ve blamed myself for his behavior and I’ve explained away his poor choices. I’ve been up nights retracing my 20 years of parenting, assuming it must have been something I did or didn’t do that led to his actions. And when the news hit the papers, I attempted to do some damage control. I made sure my friends and colleagues knew the facts (which differed from the news) and reminded them of my son’s good nature as well as his mental illness, thinking somehow it would lessen the blow.
And of course, there has been overwhelming sadness, depression like I have never known before. There is a constant lump in my throat, a sickening sensation that one word, one action, one memory could send me reeling into uncontrollable tears at any moment. Since I am Bipolar II, I’ve had my share of depression, but nothing compares to this deafening darkness. Thankfully, I am under care of a psychiatrist who has adjusted my medication, and a counselor who has provided me more frequent visits. I know how depression works with me. It helps (just a little) to understand what is happening the darkness arrives. I try to remember that it is only temporary.
And lastly, yes, I have had some flashes of acceptance. Though these glimpses occur infrequently, I can honestly say I’ve had moments where I have accepted the circumstances of his actions and the situation that he is now in. I’ve begun to think of the practical side of things. What this will cost our family, not only financially, but emotionally. And I’ve sought emotional support for my younger son, who, by all accounts, has taken this news the best of anyone, saying, Mom, it was bound to happen.
What now? I don’t really know. I suppose it’s the old saying, take one day at a time. Only for me, it seems one minute at a time is more like it.
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