It sneaks up on you, the crazy. It’s cagey. This is the thing: if I made you a list of the red flag signs of serious mental illness, and another list of typical teenage behavior, they would be virtually the same. You watch all the kids acting like idiots and assume it will pass. But little glitches in your kid’s behavior gnaw away at the dark places of your mind. Is this really normal?
Initially you assume it must be drugs. And it is. So, you act on the drug problem and get him help. You’ve got it somewhat under control, only things don’t improve. This is because your son is using drugs to subdue the voices in his head that you won’t know about for years.
Next comes the parade of therapists. Years of confusing and conflicting opinions, thousands of dollars, and still no answer. Precious time lost when you might have intervened before it was too late. The diagnosis gets worse and worse until finally the haymaker is thrown: schizophrenia. The departure of a mind, cradled in the exquisite skull of my son. Gone. Future veered terribly off course. Mental illness is like a hurricane, a tornado, it plows through your life, leaving anything not nailed firmly down, destroyed. Decimated. No way to prepare for this adversary, just hang on for dear life.
I’ve been thinking about the babies, lately. The beautiful babies who lie in your arms and suck at your breast before falling, milk-drunk, into a wanton sleep. Did we have any idea, an inkling, of the place this would take us to: motherhood? The sheer black you find yourself surrounded by when they are in peril? The sky-high, heart bursting love? The breakneck speed at which we move to help them. Save them. The crumpling grief. The future in a green-gold eye.
They can drive us to distraction, bring us to our knees, wail forever, and it changes nothing. We will walk the floor, holding them, all night. We stand like roughcast stone monuments, sending out our love. Nothing can topple us.