On March 28, 2013 my world turned upside down. My then-20 year old son was arrested. He had been spiraling downward psychologically for some time, preferring to treat his diagnosed bipolar disorder with excessive alcohol and drugs rather than effective medication and therapy. I knew he was running with the wrong crowd, and I had warned him that if he were ever arrested, I would not bail him out. Sadly, that day came. It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make, but I decided that he needed to remain locked up until he got sober, received bipolar medication, and had time to reassess his life.
It has been nearly a year now...easily the worst year of my life. I have been asked many questions over the past year. Here are some of them along with my answers:
How are you?
Would you like the real answer or the polite one? The polite one is easy: I'm fine. But the real answer is not so simple. Let's start with this: How do you think I am? My son is in prison and I am partly responsible for the reason he is still there. Guilt haunts me constantly. Though I know my decision was the right one, the fact remains that he is still behind bars and not out on bail because of me. So I am shitty. That's how I am.
How is he?
He is sorry. Every minute of every day he is sorry. He completely accepts his circumstances as the natural consequences for his actions. He is also healthier. Not only is he sober, he is medicated somewhat effectively for his bipolar symptoms so he can think more clearly now. And he is hopeful.
He calls a lot, but I am not always available to answer like when I'm teaching. But we talk several times a week. And he writes some too. We don't exchange letters quite as often as we used to but we still do sometimes. We see him about every two weeks which is plenty for us all. Seeing each other may seem like a wonderful thing, but it is actually gut-wrenching for everyone involved. He has told me that the days we visit are days he looks forward to but also dreads because it is so painful when we leave. It is the same for me. It takes so much emotional energy out of me that every two weeks is about as often as I could manage.
How do you keep going day after day?
I just do. I'm not sure how I do it, but I do it. This year has certainly taken its toll on me though. While I have been able to continue working full time, I have not had the strength or commitment it takes to maintain my health as well as I should. I have put on weight. My sleep is erratic. And my diet is not ideal. I suffer from chronic neck pain which is exacerbated by stress. And my exercise routine is virtually non-existent. Though I am only 43 years old, I study the new lines on my face and the new gray hairs on my head and I see a women much older than that.
How is your younger son?
Honestly, this question may be the hardest one to answer. He and I have always been close and through this we seem to have become closer. From what he says, he has been able to compartmentalize this and move on with his life. And from the outside to most people that is what it looks like. His grades are quite good, he participates in after school activities, and he has a wonderful close knit group of friends with whom he spends a good deal of time. But I still worry. Because he has not spoken much about his feelings over the last year, always saying he's "fine," I worry that he's not dealing with them and instead, only stuffing them down deeper into himself. I suppose only time will tell.
You call yourself "Stillhopefulmom." How do you still have hope?
Let me first say that I remember joy but I can't feel it anymore. I am numb to it. I remain hopeful that there will be a day that joy may wash over me again, but for now, I must be satisfied with the few moments I have each day that distract me from my nagging fears. So hope is all I can have right now, and I'm clinging to it for dear life.