So, Benjy came home from the hospital today. Not on a six or twelve hour pass, but for good. Or for now, at any rate. This morning I was beyond terrified. I took an Ativan and tried to go to the transfer station to donate some old children’s books, but the transfer station was closed. So I went back home and sat on my living room couch and tried the deep breathing exercises we learned from Benjy’s therapist. They didn’t help my anxiety much but they made me feel like I was swimming instead of drowning. Like something was actually happening.
On the way to the hospital I stopped at Starbucks for a venti soy vanilla latte. By the time I’d driven a half mile, I’d sucked the whole thing down. It was sweet and soothing. I will make a mental note to use venti soy vanilla lattes as a mental health strategy. (Lars will not like this, however, because we are now Officially Broke, and lattes are supposed to be a thing of the Past.)
Cleveland Circle was humming with the same assortment of college students/young urban professionals/oddballs that always seem to be traipsing between Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue, entering and exiting the Riverside T station, skipping their English Lit classes (Boston College lies a few blocks away), just hanging around. I glanced at those people as I cruised past, the students, the yuppies, and the oddballs, and then I thought about Ben. Would HE ever walk around Boston with friends, buy a yogurt at Chill, become a professional anything? (Maybe a professional oddball?)
And here’s the thing: nobody EVER goes into this parenthood thing with the expectation that their kid won’t make it. We all assume they’ll achieve on our level, and maybe even higher. Why should he be a professor when he can be PRESIDENT of NYU? (Notice I did not say Harvard. More on that some other day.) Or CEO of Google? We never say, Oh, she’ll probably suffer from selective mutism/panic disorder with agoraphobia/major depressive disorder, her whole life long (Benjy owns two of those diagnoses, by the way, along with a few others). Oh, he’ll probably be a picker/hair-plucker/cutter. He’ll probably be suicidal.
No. Those tendencies generally take you by surprise. And then you mourn the loss of that kid you thought you were going to get, who was going to be educated, employed, financially independent, married -- a mother or a father, even. Who was going to experience love, and sex, and joy on a regular basis. Who was going to support you in your old age, and who was going to be able to survive your death.
If Lars and I happen to die before him, what will happen to Ben? Saskia will have to take him. To keep him afloat, as we have done for the past eleven years.
You probably haven’t thought much about these things. Most people haven’t. But a few have.
So, Ben came home from the hospital today, and it was tough. There were a few moments when I wanted to drive him back there. And a few hours when I appeared to be okay but was internally weeping. I thought, I cannot do this, I can’t. Not anymore. He asked me why he could not be normal. Why do I always have to feel so anxious? Everything makes me anxious; I’ve been anxious my whole life.
What can I tell him? That we’re trying to help him, that his (yet again) new meds have not fully kicked in? (I want to go back to the hospital!) That we will do our best, would give our lives, to see him happy and well? I say these things all the time, but what the hell good do they do?
I cannot do this, I thought. But then, I did it. And after six hours of grief for the loss of his hospital, anxiety at being home, and general sadness, Ben let me show him a movie. And laughed. A lot. I slipped him his meds at 6:30 and he was asleep by 7:45.
He is peaceful in sleep. He deserves a break. We made it through today, and will see what tomorrow brings.