“My son’s been having tantrums,” my husband explained to the emergency room attendant.
“No, he has rages,” I interrupted.
This was no time to minimize the hell we were going through. Tantrums were normal. Hours of spitting, fighting, throwing things and screaming weren’t. Tantrums end in kisses, cuddles, and promises to be sweet, to have better behavior next time. My son’s 2-hour snot-filled rages ended up in therapeutic holds. No, this wasn’t normal.
We rode the elevator to the 4th floor in silence, and buzzed in before going through the double-locked, double doors.
It was summer, not manic spring. So they weren’t at full capacity—fewer than 15 kids—my son the youngest one this time. We passed the desk and the common area and went to what would be my son’s room.
Our tour began. We peeked in the rooms where the kids slept—neat little twin beds and a dresser, and passed the room kids go when they need to be alone—padded with a little observation window.
“Here’s the game room. The kids have to sign out a game and sign it back in before they can get another one. And here is the recreation room. Only five kids can be in here at one time and they’re always supervised,” the nurse explained.
I looked around the room with its play equipment and primary colored balls and for a moment, I saw a preschool. Then the door locked behind us.
I spotted the television in the upper corner of the common area. This was where kids ate their meals, watched a movie every night and visited with their parents during visiting hours.
A nurse interrupted my train of thought, “Did you hear? They’re saying that Michael Jackson is dead.”
I hadn’t heard and replied, “Oh, they’re always saying something about Michael Jackson.” I quickly dismissed the thought and the nurse who had the nerve to bring such trivia into my miserable, over-burdened life.
We unpacked underwear, shirts, pants, and a robe, and stacked them neatly in the drawers. Even though we were told about the routine, the tests, the meds, and all the rules, we still weren’t sure what to expect, how he would adjust, and when he’d be coming back home.
We didn’t leave him with a lovey or a blankey or a paci, but with the promise that we’d call him the next day. We got as far as the elevator. “It’s my fault. It’s because of my depression that he’s like this,” my husband sobbed.
I imagine situations like this call for comforting words—a What Would Jesus Do moment. But lately my prayers had all ended with question marks, and begging replaced believing. Why on Earth did you give me this child to parent? Is this my fault? Why are you punishing me? Lord, please, why won’t you answer me? What would Jesus do? Apparently nothing. So that’s what I did. I just patted my husband while he wept.
What can you say when you’ve just left your 4-1/2 year old son in a psychiatric hospital.
And you found out that Michael Jackson really was dead.