Thankfully, we got a second chance and he made it through his accident- but for many parents they don't get that opportunity. There are self-recriminations of should I have done something different, what were the last words we said to each other, and was it my fault?
I waited a long time to write this posting but the tears still come even though I thought I "got past this part." Our podcast has been on hiatus as have been dealing with the aftermath of my son's accident.
As a parent, I always wondered what it would be like if I had to bury a child or if my child went missing- how I would probably not have the strength to move on like other parents. I watched the ID channel shows on missing kids out of a weird sense of duty because I would want other parents to watch for my missing baby. My firstborn son and I always shared this emotional connection that probably borders on unhealthy. He says I am the only one in the world that he feels safe with; and for me, I had him young and we grew up together- giving me the strength to finish college and push my career- all for Kiernan. I credited Kiernan with every blessing that came to me since it was to benefit him.
In the last few years, I have watched the glow inside of him extinguish- he was like a porch light that bring the moths to him. He was electricity when he walked in the room. At first, we took it as behavioral issues- along with the judgements of other parents as he hit his teen years. Other parents and people love to tell you- why aren't you doing this or why can't you control your kid. Not understanding, some of the signs of behavior was due to depression and anxiety. Kiernan also self-medicated as many teens do with experimenting with cannabis and prescription drugs (they weren't in his name).
My life has felt at times as a constant loop- like I am in the middle of the ocean treading water- never seeing an island to swim to. A really bad sequel to Bill Murray's Groundhog Day. Just happy we have the good days and dreading the bad days. I have lost friends, promotions, my other children are in therapy and forget about love relationships. I always felt I was doing penance for something that I wasn't sure what I had done- the Catholic Guilt in me I guess.
My son would watch my podcasting and website building and told me that I inspired him. That most sons grow up wanting to be like their dads and mine wanted to be like me. Watching me podcast- talking to people and having people listen (and being "old" starting something new). Telling me that I would use my last $5 to have some fun to make a memory with him and his sisters. He loved that. Made me work harder and realize that maybe success wasn't a monetary reward. He also laughed at my twitter feed- saying that I really don't drink like that and I was a hot mess but way more organized hot mess than it showed.
In June, Kiernan was diagnosed with PTSD. He disclosed a traumatic incident to us that we were not aware of. We finally felt relief to understand the last almost four years of behavior. The 16 year old turned a new leaf- writing for a website on sports, starting his own podcast and for the first time was trying to get a job and go to school. But after so many hospitalizations- being in the "real world" was hard for him. He would sleep with the lights on because of nightmares. He would prowl the house and would struggle with the triggers of ptsd; not wanting to tell- because Kiernan just wanted to be normal and afraid he would be sent away. Sometimes he felt like he would be better off dead because he couldn't see a world without feeling like he wasn't normal and damaged. Even though I reminded him- hey bud, I am 37 and aren't I a work in progress?
So That Evening, I knew something was off. I returned home and we got into an argument on where he was. He went outside on our balcony- four stories up. He says it wasn't suicide- and he doesn't remember it. But next thing I knew I was looking over a railing and he was lying on top of car. He had fallen. I immediately thought he was dead. I called his dad who was in Alabama to tell him that I thought Kiernan was dead- because no one could make it four stories. I called 911 on the other phone. Laying on the floor of the hallway, I couldn't get the words out- the clueless neighbor whose car just saved his life, took the phone. His sisters were screaming and saw the image of their brother- who had previous surgeries on his hip, lying mangled through a windshield.
And then I had to process that my child had not died- going from the emotions of grief- from sadness to anger to numbness. Was my child going to be in a wheelchair? Brain damage? Seeing him in apparent denial- wanting to forget it happened and trying to "snapchat" his way out. I have the nightmares now and triggers when I see news reports. I still tear up when I talk about it. I cry randomly on the way to work- to walk in with the smile. It took me this long to finally reach my point of not knowing what to do as a parent. Four years of this. I feel angry on why we got here. I feel frustrated on not being able to fix it. I feel guilt. I feel my resources are tapped out. I have almost lost everything in the hope of making him better. Not only has his childhood been stolen dealing with the ghosts of the past but the childhoods of my girls taken from them as they have been witness to Kiernan's issues.
Writing this post was in a way, opening up about the last four years of what we went through- is part of the healing. Many friends and family were not even aware of the struggle. It was our secret. My son is also hoping that there is meaning in his experience and he can help others. He isn't sure how yet- since he has to help himself first. And then I hope one other parent can be inspired from this story (cliche I know- but hey that is all I got right now and can understand). Whether to continue to my side hustle, the neighbors all impacted (two insurance claims and an angry building manager), how to rebuild from the inside out- my girls, my kid and lastly myself. And believe me, this isn't the greatest thing to post about it- because mental health issues are taboo and mommy bloggers glorifying parenting doesn't help matters. The image of the perfect woman and other judgemental friends and co-workers doesn't make me want to be in the tree of trust to open up and share- but if one person can benefit- then maybe worth it.
What Did I learn from This? From the mom who is not expert other than at being an organized hot mess
Check your teenagers phones. If you see anger in them (especially boys) usually that it is a sign something is going on. Parents too much stay away and let the teen run things- it should be a benign dictatorship as parents- with rules, guidance and boundaries. Don't let the teen be Stalin. If you see mood changes or suspect drug use- ask, check, verify. Don't be afraid to parent. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in ages of 15-24. Don't mind your own business- ask if they are okay. Teens and young adults are the worst abusers of prescription drugs- ask any ER physician who sees them coming in with overdoses. Secure your medicine cabinet.
Have your own vices. I read. I podcast. Write websites. Work-out. Do something for yourself and don't feel guilty. I swear mom guilt is given to you in the epidermal when you are in the hospital giving birth.
Don't worry about other judgemental bitches. Be it the neighbors, friends or family. If you are doing the best you can and you are getting medical help; you know your kid. You know when something is off. Listen to the VOICE!
Don't be afraid to get help. We all love to do sh*t on our own. I never want to ask for help or get therapy. I was intimidated by doctors to ask questions. I trusted them- and sometimes only you are your own kid's advocate. Advocate. Also- you have to keep your own maintenance up- through exercise, spiritual, counseling or creativity. Okay a glass of wine occasionally is not bad either- just don't end up in AA. Then it will get ugly when I get emails about that.
Have fun without guilt. I would always hold myself back taking my daughters places without my son, feeling like something was missing. Hold onto those moments. Don't let judgemental people ruin your good time if you go to work happy hour- in their heads they aren't wondering how can she be here with her screwed up life. What they are thinking- is wow, how does she manage it all and keep a smile on her face? Don't be afraid to be strong or have guilt that you are not wallowing in self-pity. Because stuff has to be done- dishes, laundry, bills paid. Life keeps moving on, your other kids will keep getting older and so are you. Putting your life on hold when mental illness takes years- isn't fair to you or your family. And get rid of any stress that you just don't need- toxic friends, calorie counting or over scheduling (biggest gift you can give yourself is saying no).
Let go of being the parent you want to be and be the parent you have to be. Each one of your kids needs you to be a parent that they need- it isn't always craft projects and birthday parties. And listen- I can't say it enough- I would rejoice if my kid came out of the hospital saying he was gay, transgender or asexual. He would be alive and be happy. There is enough things in this world adversity wise that your kid has to face than to not have supportive parents- who accept him. Help the kid handle the bullies. Be the safe haven when they come home to- the world can be an ugly place. I love being the mommy who does craft projects and cuddles- but I can't always do that with my son. I would get annoyed sometimes at his antics- and then when I saw his mangled body on the concrete- I begged God to let me get annoyed one more time at him bugging me.
Guess what you can't control the outcome. If Kiernan doesn't get better and one of these days he is successful at ending his life, I have to know and believe I did everything I could do everyday. I have to accept his journey as his- that he won't get better UNLESS he wants to. I can't educate every a**hole I dated or fix my ex-husband. I have to know that I did the best I can do everyday- some days I get a C+ and other days it is an A+. I can't go to school with my kids and take every test for them. I can't think it is my mission in life to emotionally rehab every guy I dated or point out to every friend what a judgemental bitch she is or fix all of her patterns that she will keep making as long as she makes the same choices. I am not the jackass whisperer. I am not the fixer-upper. I am just me; I care and love about the people closest to me and all I can do is just keep offering that love.
I want my son to be okay. And not just okay but content- I know that at times he will never be the little boy he was but I am learning to love the young man that he is. And I am not giving him up on him when I see the glimmer of the boy which still gives me hope. I see it at times when he smiles, cracks a joke, or holds my hand. And at times, he hugs me and just says, "Mommy, I just want to be normal and I am scared that I will never be." And at those times, I have to believe it for both of us- he will be the man he is supposed to be. I have to believe he didn't die already when the incidents that caused the PTSD happened or when the balcony didn't work. Even though it hurts him, I have to show how much his actions impact all of us and how we are cheering for him to get better because he is necessary to our family and we have been in it together. I have to show him he can pick up from this stumble by my actions and show him that I am putting my life together; he can too.
Kiernan at times feels he has a greater purpose on this Earth to help others, I just got to remind him when he doubts himself and he doubts the world.
Now go hug your kid and keep your judging for the Reality Television Shows.
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