Constantly Trying to Remember That We’re Not Alone

I’m watching the Oprah Show dated February 18th, with Laurie and her son Zach.  Laurie says, right off the bat, she knew something was wrong, right off the bat.  Zach raged out of control.  He was a threat to his family and classmates.  He brandished a knife at his mom.  He was so violent with a babysitter she locked herself and Zach’s little sister in a bedroom while he destroyed the house.  He talked about hurting or killing his mother.

Laurie and her husband Joe took a lot of video.  A lot of pictures.  I sometimes wonder if we should have.  I know at the times things like this happened – the rages, the destruction – I just wanted to get rid of it, not preserve it.  I needed it out of my mind.

Watching Zach talk was like watching Tim when he was 11.  Even the “I can’t remember,” comment to Oprah when she pressed him on what the voices say.  Tim sometimes, I believe, really can’t remember, and sometimes, just doesn’t want to say because he knows how horrible it will sound.  It must have been painful for Zach when Oprah pulled up the picture of what he drew, a picture of himself shooting his mom, calling her a “bich”.

I think Oprah did an amazing job relating to Zach during her interview with him.  She didn’t give him the stress of interviewing him in front of an audience, which was a very good call.

Oprah said that Zach has been diagnosed with four different mental conditions, but didn’t say which ones.  I bet I could guess which ones.  Laurie said she dragged her heels on medicating her son.  That now Zach has holes in his memory, she feels, from the meds.  Zach is in residential treatment, on the heels of being hospitalized.  That Zach’s little sister has PTSD.  I bawled when Brit, the boy who had been on 11 years ago, diagnosed at a young age with Bipolar Disorder, sent a message to Zach.  That there’s hope.  That Zach and, as an extension of that Tim, can grow up to have a good life.  Tim will never be a national merit scholar like Brit, but he could be – he will be – a content adult, living a life he can be proud of and that he enjoys.  I cling to that thought.

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  • Bipolarette Dana February 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    I always find it amazing how similar all of our stories really are. We think that what we're feeling is so strange or so out there, that's its embarrassing to admit. But through reading blogs and tweeting and watching interviews on tv, it really helps me to not feel so weird or alone. I'm guessing it's the same for you as a parent of a child with mental illness. Great post!

  • Different Not Diseased February 19, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    I agree with Bipolarette. It is comforting to know we're not alone, and yet we understand why others would be astonished and disgusted that any child could act that way (insert "suffer that way"), because maybe we or a family member felt that way at some point about our own child.

  • lcmc February 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you so much for all you write. It is so very wonderful to have confirmation of my feelings. And to hear about things that happen in my family talked about with love and compassion. You are my hero. <3

  • TLC4evah February 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    I unfortunately didn't get to see that Oprah show. I think it may have helped.

    My 16 you stepson was diagnosed with Schizophrenia two weeks ago. Yesterday he asked me a bunch of questions about his diagnosis, what to expect, is it forever, etc. It almost broke my heart. I hurt so bad for him when he expressed remorse about not being able to drink when he's 21 like his peers will be able to. This was his first glimpse that Things Are Different Now.

    Today I am just feeling really sad about his future. I need to see more positive stories about people living "normal" lives with this disease.

    Thanks so much for putting yourself out there for those of us that are also living this life. It really does help knowing we aren't alone.

    Hope is a very important tool to have when we're dealing with this.