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Confessions of a Working Mom

The real scoop behind what it's like to be a working mom.

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Bi-polar

You’re joking, right?

Sometimes things happen that are simply unbelievable. This can be a good unbelievable, where you’re thrilled to hear the news. It can be a bad unbelievable, where you just shake your head and wonder what the hell just happened. When you get several of those head-shaking events in a row it can make your foundation shake like a building in Frisco during an earthquake.

I’ve mentioned my beloved Z. My beautiful, frustrating, much-loved bipolar son. In July, he moved out into his own apartment. He had gotten a job and it seemed to be steady. His girlfriend moved in with him (cringe on that one), but I accepted it as part of his life. For a few months, things seemed to be great. He didn’t ask me for money and seemed happy. He still didn’t have his driver’s license, and was biking everywhere, but it seemed to work for him. Life was good, but as with many bipolar folks – when they feel good, they go off their meds and that’s exactly what he did.

Although Z graduated in May of this year, he was only 17. His 18th birthday was not until this past October. Upon his 18th birthday, he became able to access a small trust that had been set up for him. Without my help, he accessed the trust and withdrew the entire amount of money. He then purchased a car, purchased a handgun, and took his girlfriend on vacation. He didn’t tell me any of this. We talk weekly, and I had just seen him on a Monday when I took him to DMV to get his state identification card. Still no driver’s license. On Saturday, the police show up to our home because Z’s girlfriend’s dad has filed a missing persons report on her. I try to get ahold of Z. Nothing. Sunday rolls around. No response. I call our cell provider and the last time his cell pinged to a tower was three days prior. I really started to panic because what 18 year old doesn’t use his phone for 3 days and filed my own missing persons report. The police did a well-check out to his apartment where they found a guy living there who is a known meth user. According to neighbors, since Z has been gone, there have been a steady stream of people into the apartment carrying out Z’s belongings. Stealing from him. Both Z and his girlfriend were nowhere to be found, but the “roommate” said they’d gone on vacation to Malibu. This partially makes sense to me because Malibu is where Z went to rehab and had very fond memories of his time there. I could see him wanting to take his girlfriend down to check it out and say “hi” to everyone there. My panic lessens somewhat.

Monday rolls around and I finally get a call from Z. It comes through an automated provider telling me that I was getting a call from a Los Angeles county inmate. I load on money to be able to talk to him, and after several attempts, I’m finally able to talk to him. He tells me that he bought a convertible mustang and drove down to Los Angeles with his girlfriend. While there, they got lost in Compton. Because of their car looking out of place in the neighborhood, the police pulled them over. Of course Z had no license or insurance. Of course Z had drugs in the car. This, I expected. This is something I had prepared myself for because of his lifestyle. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was the face that he had a loaded 22 pistol in the glove compartment. He cries as he tells me he just bought it to protect himself. Regardless of the reason he bought it, my beloved boy was arrested on felony counts and booked into jail. Hearing his story made my heart sink.

As Z and I are talking, he is in hysterics because his girlfriend is stranded in Los Angeles. The car is a stick and she can’t drive it. She has no way to get home and is stuck in Compton. At this point, she’s been there for four days. She has no phone and we have no way to find her. I make my promises to try everything possible to locate her, and spend the rest of the day calling every motel in Compton. We finally track her down, I call the police and let them know I’ve found her, and they call her parents. Her parents pick her up in the early hours of Tuesday morning because Los Angeles is hours away from where we live. They bring her and the new car to their home. They won’t let her go back to her apartment because they, too, know about the meth user crashing there.

On Tuesday I talk to Z. Tuesday is his arraignment day. I tell him to plead not guilty because we don’t know the penal codes he is being charged with. Z tells me he is going to plead guilty so he can get out quicker. I beg him not to so that we can figure out what the exact charges are and plan our move from there. He tells me he’ll think about it. By the time I talk to him Tuesday afternoon, he’s pled guilty to a felony charge. He still isn’t sure exactly what the charge is, but according to him, the other inmates there tell him he’ll be out in 30 days and that’s all he cares about. My beautiful stupid boy has no idea how this felony conviction will impact him for the rest of his life. All he can see is the here and now. He firmly believes that he’ll be released at his sentencing hearing the first week in December. I am devastated, but this too is something I can work around. I love him and know he can overcome this at some point. All of this behavior is not unusual for someone with bipolar disorder who is off their meds. They make impulsive, reckless decisions and I know this. I accept this as part of who he is but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the fallout.

I finally ask him about the trust. It’s the elephant in the room. He wouldn’t have been able to buy the car without accessing it. He tells me that he withdrew the entire amount of money last week. He bought the car in cash, and then stored the rest of the money in a drawer in his apartment. I ask him exactly how much was in the drawer and he refuses to tell me, just says “a lot, mom”. He says he knows it is gone, that based on everything he’s heard that the roommate has stolen it. I don’t say anything, but I don’t understand. He had two bank accounts where he could have safely stored the money. Yet he made the choice to leave it in his apartment with a sketchy guy while he went on vacation. I sit on the phone just wanting to cry because I worked hard to make sure that money was put into a trust for him at a time when I didn’t have a lot of money and could have used it to support us. Instead, I did the right thing and the money I saved for him was gone in the blink of an eye.

I just want to shout up to God, or whoever is pulling these strings of life, “You’re fucking joking, right?”

Dread

One of the hardest things about being a mom to four kids is the fact that you can’t evenly distribute your attention to each one of your children. In a perfect world you would have no trouble doing this. But my world is far from perfect.

My Z is constantly on my mind. Especially in April. Two years ago in April 2012, I had my first experience with 51/50. 51/50 is where you commit someone for their own safety when you believe they are at risk to harm themselves. Before we knew Z had bipolar disorder, trouble had started brewing at home. He was rebellious. We found out he was smoking pot, sneaking out. Normal kid stuff I guess. I did it, but my parents never knew. I quickly grew out of it. But not Z. Z was in everyone’s face with it and we had three very little children at the time. He left pocket knives out on the floor, left doors unlocked, and did things that were irresponsible and ultimately put our other kids at risk. My husband finally called him on it and told him it had to stop. Z flipped out. It’s a day I’ll never forget. He attacked my husband and broke a couple of his fingers. My husband is a much larger guy than Z and finally just sat on him to stop the insanity. Z screamed the entire time that we were abusing him and that he was going to kill himself. It was awful and a defining moment in our family. It fractured us. We called the police and they recommended a 51/50. Z was gone for several days and the house was peaceful. It felt like everyone could take a breath for the first time in months without waiting for the powder keg to ignite.

When Z returned from the inpatient treatment, things were bad. Nobody trusted anyone else. The relationship between Z and my husband was more than fractured, it was broken. Several more months of self-destructive behavior resumed until my Z took a ride with someone who had threatened to have him arrested the night before. In that moment, I lost all sanity as a mother and said things I deeply regret. I was so angered that he put himself, this child that I loved, into a position to be truly hurt. I realized at that moment that for the past six months I had neglected my other three children to focus on Z and I could no longer do so because it was destroying me. I was on so much anti-anxiety medication at that time that I was an absolute zombie. I called my mother and father and arranged for Z to go live with them. Their home was only 30 minutes away, but he was switched to a new school district and his life was radically changed.

I wish I could say that things got better for all of us but they didn’t. I was eaten alive with guilt. I felt like I should have moved myself out of my family home to go live in an apartment with Z. Clearly he couldn’t be around my other children. I was living in a fog of self-hatred for making the call to abandon my child. Everyone tried to reason with me that if I moved out with Z, I would be abandoning 3 other children. And although I knew they were right, I still couldn’t focus on my other children. It seemed that by making my decision to have Z move out, I had worsened my own situation. There are large gaps in my memory of time that I can never get back. And I hate that. My youngest wasn’t even two when all this started and so I missed a lot of the “fun” stages that are associated with having a toddler because I was off dealing with Z.

When April 2013 rolled around, my mother called me in hysterics. She and Z had gotten into a huge fight and he’d run away with a girl. The girl’s parents were also frantic. My husband (who knows my son very well) found him easily. Z was high and pumped up on a manic cycle (although we didn’t know it at the time). He again sat on Z while Z’s friend vandalized our car, the girl punched him in the face and broke his eye glasses, and general chaos ensued. The police came again and heard Z screaming that he was threatening to kill himself. By this point, we suspected he had bi-polar disorder but nothing had been officially diagnosed. He again ended up with a 51/50 and then was transferred to an inpatient hospital 2 hours away.

The first couple of nights were awful. The events of the previous April had fractured us. The damage done this April broke us. My husband had just been laid off and now his eye glasses were broken. His vehicle was damaged. And we had a son 2 hours away in inpatient mental therapy. We could little afford any of it, yet on the second night Z was there, I left work early and drove to see him. Visiting hours were between 7 and 8 p.m. nightly. I made the trip and within 5 minutes he was screaming at me and refused to see me. I was devastated. Luckily, that night I met his psychiatrist who explained that Z was in rapid cycle mode and needed heavy medication to help bring him out of the cycle. I made the trip 2 more times that week, consumed with the need for Z to know how much I loved him and for him to know that I was there for him. He didn’t seem to care either way other than to tell me each time he saw me how much he hated me. Regardless, at the end of his weeklong inpatient treatment, he was transferred to another facility for a 30 day inpatient stay. This treatment facility was 4 hours from home and required us to come every weekend for family therapy. My husband and I did it willingly, again giving up time with our other children (along with money we didn’t have to begin with) to help Z. In retrospect, I am grateful for the events of that April because he was finally properly diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and was put on the road to therapy, anger management classes, and given mood stabilizing medication.

Still, things are not good. Z still lives with my parents because he has destructive anger outbursts. I don’t trust him around his siblings. But during the past year I’ve learned to let go just a little bit. I can’t control what he does. I can love him, which I do, but I can’t stop his path to self-destruction. I do still watch him though. I guess that will never change. I’ve noticed recently that his self-medicating has ramped up. I tell myself that this April will be different because, although I’ll extend all my effort to help him, I realize I can’t “save” him if he makes the same kinds of choices he made the past two years. Still, I dread this month. I dread having to deal with everything that goes along with his disease. I pray that this month will turn out differently than the past two Aprils I’ve gone through. I’ve been trying to cherish the days that I have with my children, including Z, instead of just wishing time away and hoping that the month comes and goes without any event. And if I never hear the term 51/50 again, it will be too damn soon.

Bi-Polar

Wow, now there’s a word. Bi-polar. Kind of makes you want to run in the other direction, right? Wait until you’ve got one in the family.

My 17 year old son, Z, was diagnosed as bi-polar two years ago. This is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through. See, Z has always been my buddy. When my ex-husband and I split up, Z was mine. I was young and in college and so wherever I went, Z came with. He was such a good little guy. Sweet temperament. Polite kid. It’s hard to reconcile all of that with the surly young man that stares out of his chocolatey brown eyes at me.

Until you get bi-polar disease under control, the person that you know will disappear. And even when it gets under control things are still a challenge. My Z is so smart it’s incredible. His academics, however, are very reflective of his disease and much less so of his actual mental acuity. And I’m so tired of hearing, “Are you sure he’s not just acting this way because (insert whatever reason)…” Dear God, who would choose to have horrid mood swings that take you from the height of the clouds down to the depths of the sea in a heartbeat? Nobody. Watching my son plummet and then rise is agonizing.

I’ll talk much more about this subject because it’s always on my mind. Of my 4 children, Z is constantly there. He takes up the most space in my head but it’s because I worry about him so gravely. Will he hurt himself? Will he hurt someone else? When will he be arrested and what will it be for? Will he graduate? The list is exhaustive. But I love him tremendously, with or without his illness. He no more asked for this than the kid down the block asked for Type 1 diabetes. Yet he’s got it and we’ve got to deal.

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