I grew up enjoying an affluent lifestyle. My dad was the owner of a popular Chicago nightclub. The house where I lived, along with two siblings and both my parents, boasted 10 large rooms with a finished basement. Summers, we vacationed at our lake house in Delavan, Wisconsin. During the school year, my parents sent us to an elite private school.
When I broke my collar bone (twice) I was rushed to ER in a cab where the situation was immediately tended to. When my sister came down with measles, the doctor came to our home to treat the condition.
Food, shelter, clothing, and medical needs were more than amply met. My world was safe. Needs and wants and greeds were at my fingertips.
Many years later, I was employed with a school district and I had insurance. When my children came along, they were included on my medical care. Though we weren't wealthy (on a teacher's salary) we didn't lack for much.
And here I am, many years later, on the brink of retirement, caring for my adult son who is mentally ill and has been unable to work for 3 years. Thankfully, he is not on the street as so many are. Matthew lives in my home.
For three years we have applied for social security for him. I say 'we' because Matthew is unable to do this by himself. Finally we secured a lawyer to fight that ongoing situation.
Meanwhile, Matthew is with a wonderful Denton, Texas organization MHMR. I will forever be grateful and indebted to them for literally saving my son's life. Matthew is on a cocktail of ever changing meds, has a team of case workers, a full-time psychiatrist, and a nurse who comes to the house to treat him and check on him each week.
And then it happened. His anxiety rose to dangerous levels and his blood pressure went through the roof. He ended up in the ER twice. And then went back to the hospital two more times for sciatica, and experienced a very unsympathetic doctor who only handed him a list of exercises to do.
"Mom, where do I go if I have a medical need?" he asked. "I can't keep going to the ER."
Not only am I now in the world of fighting for disability for my ill son, but he also is developing physical problems. Where to go? No insurance. I haven't money to pay out of pocket. I only knew a world of earning a paycheck for working, and paying a deductible for doctor visits.
I woke up. I had to find new ways to help my son meet his needs. Surely, my son was far from the only one with these problems. There had to be an underground network. How could I tap into that? Where should I go? Who to ask?
There is a world of people who are homeless; no shelter, a bag of questionable clothes, churches that provide lunch, but where is there help for medical needs? I had no idea.
Many suggested I ask for credit and then pay it off monthly bit by bit. When one is already financially stressed, its not really a possibility.
Last night Matthew and I went to Walgreen's to find something to help relieve tooth pain. Before we left, a friend suggested I ask the pharmacist about any charities (charities can be hard to find and they must be flooded with requests). The pharmacist suggested First Baptist Church of Denton, where I spoke last fall about one of my books. I felt right at home calling.
The church sponsors First Refuge. It's run by dentists who volunteer their time on certain days. The indigent must qualify. According to their guidelines, Matthew should qualify (fingers crossed, prayers said).
In these past months, I learned that there is a secret world of the indigent. The people we sometimes do not notice, or care to notice, living on the fringes of society. Hungry, dirty, needing medical and perhaps psychiatric assistance.
I think back to my happy, lazy days of summer. How easy life was for me. How blessed I was.
Not everyone has had it easy. It makes me grateful for what I do have. But I need just a bit more for my son Matthew because he needs it....
just as millions of others need it; children, men, women, teens, vets. Please lets not forget.
Let's stop arguing about who is using the bathroom, what face is on our dollar, and tackle real life problems. Make a difference.. If we all pitch in, what a beautiful difference we can make. We are God's hands on earth. Let's use our hands and open our hearts.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Friday, April 8, 2016
The Widows Mite & Raising an Adult Child with Mental Illness When Only One Part of The Village is Involved.
He never liked being outside. Most kids get grounded and can't play outside. I would ground him to go outside just so he'd to get sunshine. Matthew also hated Field Day. I'd try to tell him how much fun it would be without struggling inside with reading and writing and math. "You don't understand Mom. There's grass and sun and air out there."
Then at 16 years of age, we got the phone call from his high school counselor saying Matthew had plans to end his life. I immediately went into panic mode digging out insurance cards to get him help. My then-husband explained to me, "Matthew is fine. He's just wanting attention."
"Let's give it to him!" I responded.
That was his first stint in a behavior unit.
After several years of counseling, things seemed to smooth out for Matthew. Its also when my husband and I split.
Matthew and I moved to Denton, Texas, and took an apartment, while my ex remarried and moved to Dallas; 30 minutes away.
Matthew already took a six week course to become a certified nurse's aide and he happily landed a job at a all-care facility where he worked for several years. But then the voices returned. It coincided at the same time we moved into our new house.
Change was always hard for him, but this time they brought on multiple psychotic breaks, followed by hospitalizations.
I'd sit all night beside him at the hospital and somehow manage to go to work the next day. When he was admitted to mental health facilities, I visited him every chance I could. I spoke to doctors, filled out endless paperwork, applied and was rejected many times for his SSI; this went on for a few years, to the point of my utter exhaustion.
I struggled with finances, as I cared for him.Finally, Matthew was granted food stamps. A true godsend! And now he has a lawyer for SSI. Our court date is soon.
The last time Matthew went to the ER was for high blood pressure due to anxiety attacks. It happened twice in a few days, back to back. I sat with him until he was dismissed at 3 am one time, and 2 am the next. Again I went to work.
Its a blessing to help my sweet son. I am here for him, and will be, until I no longer walk this earth.
As I told Matthew's story to help dispel the mental illness stigma, single Mothers and Fathers of mentally or physically handicapped, and mentally ill adults have contacted me. Like me, they feel it an honor to care for our children; feed, cloth, drive to appointments, take time from work, give financially, total emotional care, and so forth.
I am certainly not the only one. Sooner or later, everyone has challenges in life.
I must admit that it is hard to go through this alone; totally alone without someone to lean my head on. Without someone to hold my hand and tell me it will be alright.
One night, not so long ago, I was praying for us single Moms and Dads who walk down this chosen path without village help. In tears I prayed for God's grace and strength. And, then God spoke to me about The Parable of the Widow's Mite Mark 12:42. A widow gave all she had to the Lord's work, 2 mites (pennies). It was most pleasing in the eyes of Jesus after he had witnessed others who gave a lot, but never gave their all, nor their best. I knew God was pleased with what I did to help my son.
My heart leaped.
Suddenly, I am not alone.
Mother, Father, you are not alone.
Jesus sits with me.
Jesus sits with you.
He holds my hand as I lean my head on his shoulder.
He holds your hand as you lean on his shoulder.
He says, it will be alright.
He tells you that it will be alright.
When I feel I cannot take another step He holds me up.
He holds you up when you feel you are about to fall.
When finances are tight, unexpected money arrives in the form of a low utility bill, or a restaurant gift card from a silently listening friend.
When I am awake most the night with my son, God gives me the energy to make it through the next day.
And he does the same for you.
Do not despair.