The first five years and a long descent.

by , on
May 1, 2017
Adam Perez

During the initial first five years of his mental illness, while we were going back and forth to our therapist, while he was being prescribed a litany of medications from zoloft to trazadone, lithium, depakote, paxil, prozac – Adam was regularly smoking pot. Now, I can’t say for sure that it interacted with his medication – but, I can’t say for sure that it didn’t. Regardless, things didn’t get much better. He attended an alternative school – academics weren’t emphasized – really a glorified babysitting service. Adam was able to lay down and take a nap if he wanted to. There didn’t seem to be an environment to accommodate this situation.

The public school’s answer was to ‘outsource’ them to an alternative setting; the alternative setting just wanted to keep them calm. No one was receiving any education. At the age of 16, Adam came to me asking me to consider allowing him to drop out and pursue a GED. He expressed that being allowed to take a nap whenever he wanted to was not teaching him anything. We agreed, and he withdrew from school.

Adam continued to act with little regard for the rules or boundaries we established for the household. Our one big rule, “No Drugs” – that was the big one – he just couldn’t help himself – the pot smoking gave way to other drugs – hallucinogens, party drugs, cocaine – and an unfortunate incident involving running away, stealing his grandfather’s pistol, resulting in jail.

This was the first of many instances where he would go to jail because of his drug use, his impulsive behavior, and reckless disregard for rules and boundaries.

This began a long descent into self medicating that would last for 17 years.

A mother’s story: Adam.

by , on
Apr 1, 2017
A mother's story.

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.

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