In early 1994 Adam was a noticeably different 11 year old – usually an extraordinary student, mature, responsible, gave way to a reckless attitude – angry, oppositional, a little scary for those of us living with him who were not accustomed to this personality.
I sought assistance from the pediatrician who suggested that hormones were playing a part. That was it. We were sent home without an answer, and the outbursts continued – accompanying them were angry fits, that culminated in an evening of throwing a guitar and pulling a book shelf down. This was the most frightening thing we had ever seen. His younger brother was terrified, as Adam took out some of his aggression on him. The situation became so volatile that I called the police one evening, who arrived, summoned an ambulance who transported him to our local hospital.
This was feeling more like a dream than anything I could have ever imagined with my two sons.
Adam was evaluated and it was suggested that he be transferred to a local hospital that specialized in mental health. I didn’t know that 11 year olds could be mentally ill. Wasn’t that for homeless people, who shuffled around in torn, filthy clothes, pushing a shopping cart and mumbling to themselves? I had much to learn…..
Adam’s first hospitalization was for 45 days in 1994 – he was diagnosed as a manic depressive, also known as bi-polar disorder. It was explained to me that the brain has spark plug like sensors that are lubricated with serotonin, and when the serotonin is depleted, the spark plugs misfire producing the behavior that we have seen. He was medicated. As a novice in this environment, I didn’t know to object and question what they were giving him. They told me it would balance his moods.
This began a 5-year see saw of hospitalizations, medications, suicide attempts, anger and violence. We were put in touch with a magnificent MSW who helped us all maneuver, as a family, through this. While Adam was suffering, his younger brother and I shared his suffering. Two and three evenings a week at the therapist’s office, doctor’s visits, school meetings – all while trying to work as an advertising executive in New York.
Adam was hospitalized at least 15 times during this first five years – from Northern New Jersey, Queens, NY; south Jersey – central Jersey – he’d seen all of them. And his brother and I would drive however long it took for visitation hours – even if it meant that I would arrive on the unit, he would look at me and say, “I don’t want to see you.” And I would turn around and leave. His younger brother spent endless hours in the waiting rooms of these hospitals. Too young to go onto the unit.
Adam had bi-polar disorder but his brother and I walked with him.