About one week after we had last seen or heard from our son, while at a birthday party for my husband’s 90+ year old grandmother, my cell phone rang. When I saw who it was, I immediately took the phone to my husband because I was in the middle of organizing the party food and didn’t know what I would be getting into if I answered it.
My husband took the call outside and was gone for a long time. I had no idea what was going on and didn't find out until later that our son was in one of his end-of-the-world states of mind. He complained that his life was terrible, that he was tired of living in a park, tired of being hungry, tired of not having anyone who cared about him, and tired of everything going wrong for him because of us. My husband told him that we loved and cared about him and wished things could be different so that he could live at home, but, he didn’t know what else he could do or say to help.
Then our son dropped the bomb that he was just calling because he wanted us to know that he was going to buy a bag of dope and kill himself.
My husband tried to reason with him, talk sense into him, give him some hope, and did everything he could think of to reassure him that we would always love him. He re-affirmed that we would gladly welcome him home as long as he would promise to be nice, stop smoking pot, and take responsibility for himself.
Apparently, he wasn't hearing what he wanted to hear, so he hung up.
My husband didn’t know what else to do or say. Could this have been a real suicide threat, or was it just another form of manipulation? And, if it was manipulation, what did our son really expect to gain from it?
The party was winding down when my phone rang again. I answered it this time and my son said, “This might be the last time you talk to me and I just thought you should know that in case you wanted to change your mind.”
I asked, “Change my mind about what?”
He said, “I guess you need to speak with your husband and he will tell you why you are never going to hear from me again.”
I asked my husband what that meant and he whispered to me that our son was threatening to kill himself because he was tired of having nowhere to live but a park. I asked what I was supposed to change my mind about and my husband said that he had no idea what our son wanted from us because everything he had put out there so far had been rejected.
We spent the rest of the time we were at the party wondering what we were supposed to do now. He hadn’t really threatened suicide like this before, but we also knew that most of the time people who are going to commit suicide don’t keep calling their parents threatening to do it. However, if anyone was not going to follow the rules of statistics, it would be our son.
Neither one of us felt that we should give in and change OUR rules and expectations. If we were to let him come home to lessen the chances of suicide, we had the feeling that it wouldn't take long for him to get angry and freak out when everything didn’t go his way, especially when we didn’t do exactly what HE wanted US to do. It was a cycle we were quite familiar with and didn't really want to jump back into.
As I cleaned up after the party, I found that there was an entire pepperoni pizza left over and thought I would see if he wanted us to bring it to him. At least it could help to alleviate the hunger factor for the night. We hoped that it might help his attitude in some way.
We weren’t sure if that was the right thing to do or not. This was a new situation for us and we got the feeling that our son was expecting us to say, “Oh, please don’t kill yourself. Come home and eat and sleep and have your way and do whatever you want to do.”
Instead, we took him a pizza.
We are awesome parents.
He grabbed the pizza from us and told us that it was stupid that we would bring him something to eat but didn’t care enough about him to even let him sleep in our backyard and couldn’t accept him for who he was. He walked away with the parting shot that he was not going to sleep in the park for one more f-ing night and was going to f-ing end it all and we wouldn’t ever see him again.
We were pretty worried, but drove home and wondered what was going to happen next.
Of course, within about ten minutes, the phone rang again.
He informed us that he was coming to our house with someone so that he could get his TV and anything else that he could trade for the bag of dope that he needed to kill himself that night. He said that we HAD to let him come in and get his things and that if we didn’t, we would be sorry. He stated that he would break into our house if he had to because he was going to do whatever it took, including beating the crap out of my husband, to get the money he needed to buy some dope.
He did not come to our house and we didn’t hear anything else from him.
The silence was just as worrisome as the constant calling.
It might seem like we didn’t handle this situation correctly. But, honestly, no one can understand what it felt like that night. We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what to say. We plead, we expressed our love, we attempted to reach an understanding, and we tried to reason with him. Nothing made a difference.
This could have been a bi-polar episode, or it could just have been a grander scale of his usual disconnected thinking. But, what if he was serious and what would we do if he carried out his suicide threat and all we did to stop him was take him a pizza?
It seemed like there was only one thing left to try. We hoped that we were doing something that would help our son get the the help that he obviously needed. We called the police dispatcher’s number and told them that our son was threatening suicide and explained that he hadn’t been living at home because he didn’t like living under our rules. We didn’t know what this phone call would accomplish, but hoped something would come out of it that would save our son that night.
After the officer found him, we received a call back from the dispatcher telling us that we needed to go to the park. When we got there, the officer said that WE had to take our son the emergency room for a psych evaluation based on the suicide threats. We had anticipated a trip to the hospital, but we didn’t think we would have to drive him there ourselves. We were positive that was not a good idea, but the officer said that he didn’t have permission to leave his jurisdiction.
However, upon being informed that he was being taken to the hospital, my son became very agitated and started yelling at and f-bombing everyone-- including the police officer. His outburst quickly landed him in handcuffs and earned him a ride to the hospital in the officer’s K-9 truck.
The officer found a marijuana pipe in our son's pocket when he searched him. That gave him one more thing to blame us for—being given a ticket for possessing drug paraphernalia in a park.
In my opinion, the positive aspect about being cited for drug paraphernalia again was that he would soon have to appear before a judge and would be ordered to stop using marijuana. The bad thing was that he might get a stronger sentence since it was his second drug paraphernalia offense.
I thought it would be a relief to have him at the hospital in the care of professionals. I hoped that someone would realize that our son needed mental health help.
But, once he arrived at the hospital, our son began to “play the game.” He b.s.’d his way through all of the questioning, evaluating, and examining. He claimed that he wasn’t suicidal and that he had just been joking.
The nurse, doctor, and social worker talked to us, heard our version of what had taken place all afternoon and evening and then concluded that our son was not a danger to himself or anyone else and informed us that they intended to release him.
We weren’t even at the hospital for very long. It seemed that no one was interested in doing anything for us or our son. We even begged them to hold him for 24 hours (which in some states is mandatory when someone threatens suicide) and re-evaluate him after that to determine whether he would benefit from psychiatric intervention. But we were told that there was no basis for it.
Not only that, but the social worker actually came out to the waiting room and told us that because our son was still 17 years old, according to DCFS, we were required to take him home and if we didn’t, we could be charged with child endangerment. We explained the situation and what led up to our son losing the privilege of staying in our home and he said, “I suggest that you ride it out for four months until he turns 18, but I guess it is your choice.”
And that was it. Once again, it seemed as if mental health help was completely unavailable and we were on our own.
We didn’t want to take him home, but it sure felt as if we weren’t being given a choice in the matter. We were quite upset and a little afraid.
Our son and daughter-in-law met us at our house to provide some support. They talked to their brother, tried to instill in him some feelings of love and hope and asked him to try to become the person that they knew he could be: for himself and for his family—especially the nephews who loved and admired him without reservation. They all cried and hugged and it was comforting to see.
I wished they could have stayed longer because as soon as they left he turned off the humble, broken-hearted act and immediately informed us that he didn’t want to be in our home and was only there because we had called the cops on him AGAIN. He told us that he was going to do whatever he wanted to do and that we couldn’t do anything about it because he knew that we had been told that we were required to let him stay until he turned 18.
We reiterated the house rules, specifically that he couldn’t smoke pot, couldn’t have pot on our property, and couldn’t come home smelling like pot or cigarettes and that if he didn’t want to live by those rules, we would kick him out and take our chances with DCFS and the police.
He said, “Don’t worry about it. All I am going to do is eat and sleep here and YOU don’t ever have to talk to me again.”
We gave up even trying to make a point and just said, “You can sleep on the couch and get yourself something to eat, if you want.” We locked all of the doors that prevent him from going into the office, the basement, and the garage, then went upstairs and locked ourselves in our bedroom.
The next morning, I must have looked at him in the wrong way because he started right in on me and told me that I was a lying sack of sh**, that he hated me for calling the police on him, and that he wished he could have killed himself last night because he would rather be dead than live here.
I wanted to say, “Good morning to you, too,” but I didn’t.
Luckily, after his morning rant, he walked out the door without saying anything else. He didn’t take any of his belongings with him and I had no idea where he went or if he was coming back.
Later in the afternoon, he sent me a picture of himself with his hair in a pony tail and said, “Look what I can do now!” (which I guessed meant that he was able to put his hair in a pony tail by himself). Then he texted me and asked me what time his curfew was!
I thought, "If this isn’t a good example of one of his rapid-cycling bi-polar episodes, then I don’t know what is." All of a sudden he was super happy and acting like life and everything between us was just peachy.
I did not respond to his message since just a few hours prior to that, I had been told to never talk to him again and called several not-so-nice things.
When he got home that night, he was exuberant and jabbered on and on about how he had gone to Sonic to talk to the manager about getting a job there, and asked if I liked the picture that he sent to me, and wanted to know how my day was, etc. My husband had never really witnessed one of his manic moods and he was amazed at the 180 degree change from the previous day.
The problem with this manic frame of mind, where our son acts like nothing is wrong, acts like nothing ever happened, and acts like life is just happy, happy, happy, is that it doesn’t last long and is usually followed by a crash.
Then the whole “life sucks, you suck, I hate you and everything about you” cycle begins again.
It began on day number two of “riding it out for four more months.”
He wanted me to give him $5.00 to buy a pizza.
I did not give it to him.
I was yelled at, sworn at, and berated because I didn’t “trust” him enough to give him money. He claimed that it was my fault that he didn’t get to eat his pizza on Sunday night because I called the f-ing cops on him. Now, all he wanted was five bucks for an f-ing pizza and I was being a b**** for not giving it to him.
He said that as soon as he had his court date, he was going to move out again because it sure wasn’t worth it to live here, trying to do what he was supposed to do when his own mother wouldn’t f-ing trust him not to buy drugs with five stupid dollars.
I knew the happy act wouldn't last.
It had been two days and life was already starting to feel like a living hell.