Let me start by saying that I am not a Doctor, Therapist or any other type of mental health professional.
What I am is a mother who for years lived in the turmoil brought on by my son’s addiction, and possible mental health issues. When it came to my son I was the expert. The first “Clinician”.
As long as I can remember Michael was different from the other kids in his life. He played the same, ate the same and talked the same but something about him was just “different”.
He had a tendency to be sneaky at times. To be overly attached. I didn’t sleep much the first two years of his life. He always wanted to be with me and he didn’t need much sleep.
Throughout elementary school starting before Kindergarten I remember reaching out to various agencies that would help with counseling small children. I didn’t know exactly what he needed. But I know he needed something I didnt have.
He made friends easily. Did regular boy things like riding his bike, building forts and torturing his little sister with teasing; you know kids stuff.
He didn’t seem to have any trouble getting along with most adults either. Most. He was always driven to do the exact opposite of what was asked or expected of him. Always wanted to do things his way.
This caused problems at home since he did have two other siblings I couldn’t just let him have his way. I couldn’t ignore behaviors like getting trouble at school or fighting with friends.
I continued to reach out for help. Pastors, Teachers, School Counselors they all had different ideas and thoughts about his behavior and what I should do. None of them were hearing or seemed to care to learn what I knew. My boy was different and I didn’t know what to do.
I was the one who saw him mumbling to himself; like he could never be quiet or not be communicating something. His thoughts came out in his words and in his actions. Sometimes uncontrollled.
I was the one who saw his sleep patterns change. His behavior at school go up and down. Sometimes he was the best helper. Other times he had to be sent home.
Fast forward to his teen years. I didn’t want to be separated, wasn’t getting sleep and he still didn’t seem to need much of it. He was using drugs and behavior went from “boys will be boys” to serious trouble with the law. He came and went from home and each time he came back he was different.
He was mostly loving and fun. A jokester and a clown. But the darkness was becoming bigger and he couldn’t stay around long.
He’d spend time in detox and rehab. Longer time in and out of the prison system. Each time in the hands of clinicians and doctors who were there to “help”.
The last time Michael was released from prison there was no after plan. Their never had been before either. I’m told their should have been. He was sent away back to the streets with no medication and no plan for follow up.
It was going to be up to me to keep him on track. I was a home counselor and his therapist and home was now locked down. I was worried that if I let him leave he’d go run and use.
I was witnessing a person that I barely knew. He seemed to be almost paranoid and more than once I could see he was scared. He was battling his own mind.
I was so afraid he would use that again I called on help. I was allowed to see an intake person at a local clinic. I explained what I was seeing. How uncomfortable I felt. I didn’t fear my life. I feared his.
The next day it was him sitting with a clinician. It was supposed to be an intake. So that he could stabilized and back on medication. I can’t say what happened but let’s just say this time as at others the system failed again.
The next day my son was not in a mental health facility. He had never even been checked in. He sought out his medication of choice and it killed him. While I slept he was found dead.
I was the first clinician always advocating for him. I felt compelled to do this. Part of what a mother does. So often I wasn’t heard. I was just another mother of some junky on the streets. “He’s not our problem” is what they say without saying the words.
Guess what we’ve all got a problem. People are dying at an alarming rates. I won’t talk statistics right now because my son was not a number. Neither is your brother, sister or mother.
I won’t say the system is only failing. I don’t believe that’s true. Their are plenty of people in recovery and doing awesome things.
The system though is missing the most important step. And that is to involve the families who know their addict the best. We are the first clinicians the first to know when something is wrong.
I’m asking you to advocate. Advocate and fight as long as their is breath. Keep learning and discovering just don’t let their lives rest on the words and plans of the ones who won’t even come to see them laid to rest.
You have the knowledge; that person needs you to be the first Clinician and Advocate.