My sons had a bad week. Within 48 hours, Porter went to the trauma ward and Sam went to the psychiatric hospital. Porter’s seizure caused a fall against the table. The whack bruised his face and the swelling occurred so fast it seemed to inflate on the way down. I got the call to meet the ambulance, and jammed on the accelerator to drive there, wondering.
I always wonder; I can’t help that. I wonder if he’ll die. The seizures have occurred for 20 years and I still think about death each time it happens.
Sam went by ambulance too. There were no bruises, just the cloud of unbearable anxiety. This time Porter looked worse, but Sam was worse. He was admitted for a week until they could stabilize the medications for his mental illness. Sam is my Godson, and one of the wisest people I know. Being smart can be a liability when our brains go haywire. He has stressful times, and he knows he does as he goes through them. This time he sat in the hospital shivering in fear. There were no bruises you could see.
Collectively Suzy and I have spent every major holiday at the hospital. In the past, we had agreed to sit with the other when one of our kids goes in. The problem with this arrangement arises when they go on the same day.
I’ve come to believe that the physical problems that Porter experiences are easier than the psychological pain that Sam does. Each restraint Sam wears, every stretcher and hospital tray symbolizes another painful moment. He chooses to wear the restraints – they ease his fears. These scars imprinted on Sam resurface the next time it happens. He keeps a psychic record of the treatments like the concentric rings of a tree. I want to say something useful, but I’m stumped. There is no Hallmark card for holidays in the psych ward.
Porter’s struggles are obvious. He looks naked without the helmet on his head. This singles him out, but it also provides the cue in public: This one’s different, so don’t be shocked if something odd happens. It’s the hidden disabilities that are so tough. People think we are well pretending to be sick, when usually it’s the other way around. We don’t know what to do when the challenges are invisible and seem like a good candidate for “snap out of it,” therapy. Sam would if he could. He’d fling himself out of his body this minute if it would make him feel peace for just a second.
Porter is home now and the bruises barely show. Sam is home too, after two long weeks in the hospital. He hated the hospital, but was reluctant to leave. He made it. By that I mean he is back and struggling to recalibrate his normal.
Suzy and I are hoping too. We’re hoping that our boys will have a stretch without the emergency room. We are hoping they will have time just to be boys.