Upon our son’s return I took him to a new dentist outside of town and it turned out that he had no cavities, therefore had no work completed and was scheduled for a follow-up in a year. We started new Village therapy with a very young counselor and held the therapy in their office, versus our home, like we had down previously. We located his room to downstairs, away from his brother’s, which seemed to help. He started to stay over his mom’s, in the halfway house she was still in, and his youngest brother still came over once a week to play. He had a first breakdown on Feb 21, 2013, and I made two decisions. The first was to switch medicine doctors and the second was to not continue therapy, outside of the Village. His new doctor described our son as one who “lives in the moment”, which meant that the past didn’t matter and all you should do is deal with him in his present state. Also, it was determined the best time to address him when he was going through an episode was about 30 minutes after the shutdown, not during it.
He started making new friends in school and began having sleepovers and going to school parties. The human services center in town did not want to restart his mentor program, so I had to beg and sweet talk them to get him back on the waiting list. The Village therapy continued and started working well, as even some of his younger brothers started to talk about their feelings. He joined a travelling basketball team and we hosted our first annual St. Patrick’s Day party at our house. His medication stayed the same from Shodair and he met with his medication doctor every other week. He started doing well in school and most teachers noted no bad behaviors from him while in class. Without the negative behavior, he was able to attain all A’s his first quarter back in school. Due to the medications, the doctor increased his metformin and then he started to hit a growth spurt. On April 24th, we had our very last Village therapy and after that there would be no other therapy, as he literally had almost daily therapy for the last 3 years. In the end, most of his therapy only served to rehash bad memories.
His doctor visits switched from weekly to monthly and we were able to avoid any blood draws, which he was still deathly afraid of. We worked closely with teachers and his principal to set him up for success in school. He did not have a first hour and was in all “size 16” classes, which kept his homework anxiety to a minimum. Then on May 10th in a bout of anger he broke his phone and proceeded to cry in his room for hours. Luckily he was able to process these episodes better and even start to apologize for them and understand what he did wrong. On May 24th, school ended and he graduated from the 6th grade. We spent the following week on a vacation to Mall of the Americas and had no issues. We started spending time at the lake and he really enjoyed fishing. In July he started a basketball camp, which would keep him busy until school. His doctor appointments kept going well and the base was very helpful in special ordering all his medication.
His shut downs started to lessen and soon it seemed they only happened maybe once a month. At the end of July he spent nine days having fun at the state fair, but indicated his anxiety was starting to build about the upcoming school year. On August 6th we all flew to Myrtle Beach for 10 days on vacation and again, he had no issues. On Aug 28th, he started school and even started earlier, by adding a new elective class. The teachers tried to make me switch him to regular classes due to his grades, but I worked with the principal to keep him in “size 16“classes at least one more year. Soon his appointments starting going really well and he was even talking to his doctor and with our new caseworker at Human Services in town. By September 12, he was reconnected with his old mentor and they started going on outings. On September 21st I took him and his brother to Las Vegas and we all had a good time, with very minor incidents.
He had very few issues any longer with getting up in the morning and had a great attendance record. He did have a minor issue of disrespect in a class in November, but resolved it quickly. We all spent the holidays together and had a great Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. In December he turned 13 years old and had some friends over for a sleepover. Soon basketball season started and he was very busy with practice and games. We continued to have his youngest brother over every week and he continued to stay at his mom’s house; she was now out of the halfway house and back in her original house. From January to the end of the school year he saw less and less of his doctor and did not have hardly any shutdowns; he even decided to throw the disc on his school track team. His last day of school was June 5 and he graduated 7th grade with all A’s and B’s.
A few days later we met my parents in Orlando, went on a cruise, and spent a week at Disneyworld. He had a minor issue in the hotel one night, but overall no issues. At this point he had grown well over 9 inches and was maturing fast. He spent the whole summer playing basketball and going to the lake. He started the 8th grade on August 27, 2014, and switched to all regular classes except for Math. He joined the football team and did well until he broke his shoulder in an out of town game. We had a school team meeting and everyone marveled at his progress. He continued to make some close friends in school and rarely got in trouble, until jumping into a fight one day to help a friend. For this, charges were filed and he had to attend an ADAPT class in town, which surprisingly he enjoyed.
He continued to see his mentor, but the case manager wanted to close out his case; luckily I was able to talk her into keeping him on a few extra months. At this point he stopped having shutdowns and could communicate his feelings rather well, mostly due to his newfound maturity. I always wondered though, what were the medications containing and what true gains were being made. The holidays again were filled with family and friends. We had family dinners together, to include my ex-wife, and everyone got along well. His mother had a year of sobriety and even got a great job again as a nurse in town. He spent most of November and December in physical therapy (for his shoulder). In December he turned 14 and again had friends sleep over. By January 2015, he was practicing and playing in basketball games for his school. His grades have been all A’s and B’s again, with infrequent school demerits mostly for minor infractions in between classes and during lunch with friends.
We had our third annual St. Patrick’s Day party this year, and then headed to Las Vegas again in March. He now sees his doctor once every four months and his mentor case closed a month ago. They even switched his last “16 class” in school to a regular class to prepare him even better for high school next year. The days of his anger and shutdowns seem like distant memories. His doctor thinks a miracle has happened and we are even discussing how and when to start pulling back on some of his meds. We will not know how he will handle being off medications until we cross that bridge later. There are still family issues and he still seems to act childish and fight with his brothers, but the rampant mood swings are held in check and he can reason much better than before. He is over six feet tall now, on a new basketball travelling team and really maturing fast, which gives me hope that maybe he will make it through all this.
Then the phone rings and I see his school name and the terror returns, as at any given moment things can regress and suddenly we end up back at square one. I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy. No one can understand what it’s like until you go through it. With his mentor case closed and “class 16’s” ended, we are now in the deep end with him, with no more floaties for safety. Our entire family will all sink or swim depending on how he continues to do. If you ever are presented with circumstances like we have, get ready for a battle and use every available resource at your disposal. Most of all, know that you are not alone!
Steven Mayne is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and a proud father. He welcomes reactions to this series both in the comment section and via email at email@example.com.