Full disclosure: This post was written with the complete permission of my son. He has read it and approved its publishing. That said, we’ve chosen to publish it anonymously. This post is part 3 of a 5-part series, following Part 1 and Part 2. You can read Part 4 & Part 5 here.
The Hospital Stay
Once he was admitted, we went home for some hospital-approved items like toiletries, flip-flops, and comfortable clothing. We returned later. Leaving after our 1-hour visit was just as hard as you’d imagine. Plus, all this is happening while we have a whole other child at home to attend to.
We called later that night. We knew we wouldn’t be able to speak with him, but at least we could get an update from his nurse. We needed to know that our boy was doing okay. Did he fall asleep easily? Did he shower? Was he scared? The nurse assured us that he fell asleep with no problem. Though we felt a little better, we still tossed and turned all night. We had the same conversations over and over again. Was he safe there? What signs did we miss? How did things get this out of control? The number one feeling was worry about our child, but not far behind that was guilt. Logically, I know we did the best we could with what we knew and what we had. Still, my mind jumped to the many times when we got frustrated with our son for his moodiness or when he would get “stuck” and unable to do anything. If we’d have known then how much he was hurting, how isolated he felt, we’d have intervened.
The coming days were filled just counting down to the next opportunity to talk to him. We called every morning to ask the nurse how his night went. We talked to him before lunch. We visited for an hour each afternoon. We called the nurse at bedtime. Between those moments, we kept ourselves occupied by going to work and attempting some sort of normalcy.
We chose to tell our close family because a) they needed to know in order to best support us and b) we needed them to help with the care of our youngest child. We informed our bosses so that they’d understand when we stepped away to use the phone or left early for visitation. We told his teachers and principal. That was it. First and foremost, it would be our son’s personal choice to tell his story. But honestly, as much as I want to normalize prioritizing mental health and break the stigma, there was a big part of me that was scared of others’ reactions. I didn’t want anyone to have an image of my child “getting committed to the funny farm” or some such nonsense as this. I knew we’d done our best, that this is what we had to do, but would others see it that way?