When we talked to Tim on the phone last Thursday, he seemed to be a bit homesick. “When are you coming?” he asked. This is a big change from when he was inpatient. He used to love to play the punishment game with us every time he was in the hospital. The first 2-4 days, he’d call us just to hang up on us mid-sentence, as if to say, “I have the upper hand, and I’m going to show you how mad I am you put me here.” Then he’d refuse to see us when we came to visit, because he knew he didn’t have to come out of his room to see us, even if we were there in the flesh. This would degrade into being willing to see us, but only to play Uno or some board game – no conversation was allowed, or he’d bolt out of the visiting room. Finally, when he’d had enough of being in the hospital, he was willing to talk to us about what he’d been doing, how he was feeling, and his desire to come home.
The longest he ever went inpatient was 38 days straight. He’s been in residential treatment for 26 days today, and it’s already sinking in that this is more permanent than the hospital ever had been. So we made the drive up to see him yesterday, and decided to take him off-campus for a few hours, to cruise through Target – his favorite place in the world – and to lunch. We were nervous that we’d get him off campus and he’s start to ask to go home. I knew I couldn’t take it if that happened.
But it went well – he looks great. His face if nearly free of acne – the first time since he hit puberty – he was clean, dressed well, and he’s lost nearly 10 pounds. And he seems happy – he talked about the kids on his floor, the staff, and his teachers. He seems to get along with everyone except one kid on his floor (the staff had told us the two of them have short fuses at times and can get on each other’s nerves). The voices are at bay at the moment, he said, and he was very definitive at lunch that he should have a salad, not a burger, because he was learning to eat better to lose more weight and feel better. I nearly spit diet soda across the table when he said that. He didn’t even finish his salad, saying he was full.
He kissed me goodbye when we dropped him off, a few hours after we’d collected him, smile on his face. And I’m encouraged. I have been carrying such guilt since we made the decision to put him residential and, for the first time, I felt that we made the right choice. He sounds happy. He looks healthy. His days are highly structured and he has professional support 24/7. I still have a little dread about how his first home visit will go – I’m afraid he’ll just regress back into his bad habits – but I feel, for the first time, this was the right decision.