Dealing With Rage

(Note: This was a comment I left on – The Milk Keeps Spilling.)

We learned to perform what’s called a “therapeutic hold” to keep our son from hurting us or others or himself. It’s sort of like a wrestling maneuver, but will restrain someone so that they are immobile but not in pain. It worked well when Tim was 10. Not so much at 15, 6 feet tall, 205 lbs. It takes at least two of us to do it when he’s in full-blown rage at this size.

The violence of his rages was the primary driver to our decision for residential treatment. We’d had to have police intervention to assist us (and, luckily, we have a very understanding police force in our town that knows Tim and his history) to help us get him to the hospital on at least three occasions. We learned this the hard way, after suffering cuts, bruises, sprains, and, in my husband’s case, a chipped elbow bone after bearing the brunt of a violent rage.

What we parents of severely mentally ill children understand, but is hard for those witnessing it to get, is that the rage is not usually an attempt to actually hurt someone else, but an expression of anxiety, frustration, and plain sick-of-feeling-this-way-ness. Imagine how much frustration and anxiety my son must feel when he can continue to rage with 400 mg of Thorazine on board. That would bring down a large-sized adult male.

But it’s difficult to live with. We have a safety plan with our other two kids (both in their teens), where they are allowed to leave the house and go to either a designated neighbor or to the public library when Tim rages out of control, without asking before they leave. Once we have the situation under control, we know they are at one of those two places and can give them the “all clear” signal. It’s a horrible way to live, and our daughter is showing marked signs of PTSD from it. Another big reason for residential treatment for Tim.

Even through all this, Tim’s siblings don’t dislike him. Our daughter expressed to her therapist that she is both happy and sad that Tim is in residential. Happy because she knows she is safe and doesn’t have to withstand the delusional and bizarre behavior that comes with his instability, but sad because she and Tim, when Tim has periods of stability, are close confidants and excellent playmates. I was glad to hear that she, even at 14, can separate the illness from the brother. It’s incredibly insightful for anyone, let alone a young teen.

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