Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Room of His Own

We saw him. For two-and-a-half beautiful hours. I was so frightened of what might come of it, I shivered halfway to Connecticut.

The drive took forever. We sat for an hour around Worcester, trying to crawl our way out of Massachusetts.  I dug in my purse for Ativan, but came up empty. The reason being, I am on a new med to combat my fibromyalgia symptoms -- severe pain all over the place, fatigue, and sleeplessness are the most confounding of the lot -- and I have no idea whether my as-needed anxiety drugs will kill me if taken jointly with Elavil.

So I removed the temptation before we left home.

We arrived half an hour late. Benjy was waiting for us in his therapist's office. His back was to the door, his head bent over some object he was fiddling with.

"Ben?" I said tentatively.

"Mom?" he said shyly.

"Can you stand up so I can hug you?"

He did, smiling. And for ten or twelve seconds I had the feel of his warm body, the itch of his wiry hair against my cheek, all to myself.

For those ten or twelve seconds he was mine.

Saskia and Lars hugged him too. We remarked upon his incredible good looks: he has lost most of the weight put on by his cocktail of medications. He is fit and tan. He still looks dazed, but that is what Abilify plus Lexapro plus Tenex will do to a person.

He is also very much alive. That is the other thing Abilify plus Lexapro plus Tenex can do.

We sat and talked with the therapist for half an hour, and then Ben and Saskia and Lars played some Frisbee. There was one close call -- a moment of frustration and self-loathing on Benjy's part when he did not perform at Frisbee the way he'd hoped to, in front of his family -- but I figured lunch would avert the storm, and it did. When Ben needs to refuel he needs to refuel.

We went to the pizza joint down the street and ate al fresco. It was lovely, being there all four of us together. Benjy seemed quiet, but content to just be in the moment. There was no restless seeking, no yearning for the Wide World to be his own, to fill the aching void inside him.

I'm not sure that void exists anymore.

I said to him, "I think this was a good choice we made for you, don't you?"

And he nodded and smiled and said, "Yes."

We asked him what he would do when we had to leave, and he said, "Just relax."

I asked him what that meant, and he said,  "You know, just hang out with my friends."

My friends. I am almost weeping even now, two days later, when I think of that. so little to ask for. Saskia does that all the time. Hangs with her friends. Lars and I do, too.

Benjy never really had that, and now he does. He seemed emotionally flat the other day, but also content. Quiet but comfortable with his new life. As Lars reminds me,  flat and quiet are Ben's baseline. Comfortable and content are not.

Readers, this is something to rejoice. When I held him again for another twelve seconds, laid my cheek against his curly head and told him I loved him and would miss him, I felt his absence like a gaping wound in my chest. Right where I suppose my heart beats.

He is in some ways already gone, even though we will see him again in two weeks, and for more hours. He has found his place, a home that works for him. It is not the same home the rest of us inhabit.

I am trying only to be glad about that, to think of my boy and not myself. This is my crowning achievement.

Think about it: my crowning achievement as Ben's mother has been to find him another home. Writing that just now nearly killed me. It defies logic. It is not supposed to be the way of things. Not at all. Not in families like ours.

That is our heartbreaking truth. If our child is to be okay, to live and live an independent and productive life, he must move henceforth on a trajectory away from here. From us. Most every child does that, but not so often at 13.

Yet, mental illness defies the "normal" way of things. There is nothing to understand about unquiet minds, not really. Not in the same way that numbers or landmasses can be calculated and mapped and darkness can be penetrated by light. You can only learn how to tiptoe softly around the landmines, locate the best and most reliable paths and then cross your fingers -- because invariably, from time to time, you will tread in the wrong place.

As sad as I feel about it, I think we have trod in the right place this time. Ben's new home is working for him in ways you would not believe. He is doing things we never dreamed he would -- and in one short month. I'll write more about these wonderful accomplishments soon -- small steps toward a state of functionality in this World we all have to function in if we possibly can.

All in all it was a wonderful visit, except it left me with a horrible migraine -- probably the result of my own emotional turmoil.

I am trying so hard not to blame myself that it has come to this. And to overcome the physical and emotional dysfunctions that eleven years of living on high alert have wrought in me.

I am trying to be happy for Ben, that finally he has found his place on this earth, that he is happy and successful, and that he is able to be those things without me by his side.

And I am trying to quell the fires in my head. Migraines suck. This is my first one, and it's a doozy. Saskia knows all about them, and she's given me some pointers. Tonight we will be with my brother and sister-in-law and their family, which I think will be healing in itself.


  1. Oh Deb, I was so wondering how the visit went...sounds like it went great! And yes, Migraines do indeed suck. Hope your's passes quickly. xoxox

    1. Thanks, Anne! Always so great to hear from you!!

  2. I am so happy your visit went so well! (And I am sorry about the migraine; hopefully triptans work with your new regimen!) Oh, hugs to you all. I'm so happy about your visit!

    1. Thank you, Atty! I just posted about the recent usual we go from one extreme to another. But how comforting to know you're out there rooting for us! :)

  3. I am so so so very happy that your visit went so well, and that you're sweet boy is happy where he is now! I took Elavil for just a few days, and eventually stopped because of my headache. I could literally take my pulse by the pounding in my head. Feel better!

    1. Thank you so much, Anon! Sorry you had a tough time with Elavil...I don't think it's the med itself that caused my migraine...just the stress of an emotionally wrenching day. And migraines are often comorbid with fibromyalgia, so it's not a huge surprise. Just my luck, I guess!

  4. I understand completely. My Fibromyalgia (Lupus) also comes with blinding vomit-inducing headaches. That of course do not improve with stress! Sorry your guy is having a rough time, remember to be good to you so that you can be good for everyone else. Ugh, the life of a Mother.......! And yet, we wouldn't, couldn't do anything else.