Archives For Posttraumatic stress disorder

Mental-Illness 2

 

 

When you have a kid who’s “challenging” (euphemism for “major pain in the ass”), receiving a phone call from his preschool teacher at 8:30 at night is NOT a good thing. You know she’s not calling you at that hour to gush over what a little darling he is.

At 3, my son was defiant, intense, uber-intelligent, willful and aggressive. Hence the phone call from his preschool teacher, asking,

“Is there a problem in your family?”

Mrs. Katz-  in your vast experience educating 3-year-olds, have you never encountered this type of kid? Even the best 3-year-olds make you want to drink in the daytime.

I’m sure it’s hard to be an underpaid, overworked preschool teacher with Little Dude in the room, making his weird-ass noises and destroying furniture and what not. But, lady – this is your JOB.

Did she really think I was going to sigh with relief, and say, “Oh,  YES” and then have a heart to heart with her?

I’d explained, in detail, to the the director of the school that my son had already been diagnosed with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. So, please don’t give me shit about “is there a problem in my family?” We’re FINE.

Or are we?

 

In 1990, I lost my eldest brother, who raised me. My Protector.

My EVERYTHING.

He was the funniest, kindest, gentlest man anyone ever knew, and when he died, I curled up into a little ball and died with him.

I stopped eating and sleeping and when it became apparent I would need hospitalization, my uncle took me to a psychiatrist who treated me for severe depression.

The psychiatrist spent 18 months looking for the right psychotropic cocktail; one that would give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

He also articulated for me a childhood of abuse and abandonment that I filled with overachievement and a quest for constant approval. A deep abyss of sadness that I covered with a comic facade and a sharp wit.

Is there a problem in my family?

I have 4 other brothers.

One of them lives in Florida with my mother. He is a brilliant patent attorney who graduated first in his class from NYU Law School. He was the poster child for “the best and the brightest” but somewhere along the way, the delicately constructed wiring inside his brain short-circuited.

He suffers from bipolar disorder which he treats successfully with strong chemical concoctions.

10 years ago, when he decided he no longer needed his medication, he suffered a frightening psychotic break.

He changed personas daily, eventually becoming convinced that he was being persecuted in an elaborate government conspiracy. He decided every member of our family was part of the conspiracy. He threatened us in extended, hostile, middle-of-the-night telephone messages.

Fleeing faceless demons, he drove up and down I-95 at 130 miles per hour, burning out his transmission and enough brain cells to land him in two different psych wards.

His doctors were finally able to help him chemically wrangle his illness into submission. He remembers nothing of his psychotic fracture.

He only remembers that he spent a year afterwards in his bathrobe, watching “The View.”

Is there a problem in my family?

My third oldest brother has a relaxed, likable personality. He laughs easily and makes a fabulous uncle/playmate to my kid.

He is retired military. He was in the army over 20 years and was deployed to Somalia.

He NEVER discusses it. If pressed, he will shrug it off.

When he visits, he pretends to sleep on the fold out couch in my den, but only dozes.

Wakes up. Has a cigarette. A soda. Watches some TV. Dozes again. I hear him downstairs, moving around all night.

The sound of the patio door sliding open, then closing; the refrigerator door opening, the swoosh! of the soda can opening. The sigh when he settles back on the couch. The TV channels changing, changing, changing.

He has been diagnosed with PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder – which is a convenient way for the government to say, “We sent you to war, you saw unspeakable things, and now you’re completely fucked up.”

He toughs it out without meds or therapy.

He’s never been the same.

He has an impenetrable shell of nonchalant behavior, acting normal when nothing is normal.

The man has not slept in 15 years.

Is there a problem in my family?

My youngest brother is a lung cancer survivor. He works too hard, plays too hard, and even after losing a lung, still smokes.

He’s a frustrated musician masquerading as a Vice President at JP Morgan Chase. He’s a confirmed bachelor because he cannot deal with intimacy or relationships.

He has bottled up rage against every single member of my family. His grudges date back to events that transpired over 30 years ago, events no one else remembers.

He’s brilliant, erratic, emotional, fiercely loving, and astonishingly gifted. He can listen to a guitar solo ONCE and duplicate it, note for note. 

All he’s ever wanted to do is play guitar, and somehow he ended up in a corner office, his essence rotting like moldy fruit.

He takes a cornucopia of anti-anxiety medications to cope with a life that crept up on him when he wasn’t looking.

I am certain that his lung cancer was caused not by cigarettes but by the fact that he’s an acutely lonely man who spends all his time alienating those who would love him.

A frustrated artist emotionally eroded by spending the last 22 years at a job that’s killing him.

Is there a problem in my family?

 

Did I bring a child destined to mental illness into this world?

Did I selfishly ignore the familial signs so I could give birth to a child who struggles with heightened emotions and diagnoses full of letters?

He is my child. He is my heart.

I want him to be HAPPY.

 

At night, we cuddle and talk over the day.
“What was your ‘sad’ today? Your ‘glad’ today?”

Our ritual for years. It’s his safe place to open up to me about his world.

But does he?

 

Dear God, I want to know,

Is there a problem in my family?

We walk home from school as he chatters happily about his day.

It’s hard for my 10 year old kid to sit still all day. I like him to blow off steam before he sits down to his homework.

Today, it’s out to the trampoline in my backyard. He loves that trampoline; his sensory issues assuaged by the movement, and all his bottled up energy released.

 

Today I want to talk.

Today, I am writing this, and I am troubled.

Today I need to know that he is having a having a happy childhood.

Today, I want to know,

Is there a problem in my family?

I go out back.

But he’s not talking.

He’s not saying a word.

 

He’s just jumping.

Jumping,

reaching,

arms outstretched,

flying,

so high.

It looks like he’s touching the sky.

Yes. Like this.

Like this.

 

Do you have a child like this? Siblings like mine?
Talk to me. I’m listening.

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