Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ventings of a Reluctant Helicopter Mom

I must confess.

I am a helicopter mom.  

My years of experience have made me one of the best. I can hover like nobody’s business, but it’s not what you think.

I am of the critical care transport variety of helicopter parents, an air ambulance so to speak. This keeps me on my toes and I have no shame in that.

The shame, however, may be directly placed on what led me to become this type of parent in the first place – our broken mental health system.

You see, my 26 year old son suffers from a challenging mix of severe brain disorders, also known as mental illnesses and development disorders - Asperger’s, bipolar and ADHD.

On good days, when he takes his meds as prescribed, life is good. I am officially off duty from hovering. He functions so there is no need for me to over function.

But on bad days, when he does not take his meds, I have no other choice but to put on my helicopter mom hat. 

I don’t really want to wear this hat. 

In fact, I have never liked this hat.

Did I mention I really despise hats? 

Hey, wait just a minute ... I should NOT have to be wearing this hat AT ALL!

But I wear it because right now this very minute, I must hover to keep him safe -- only because the system has failed him and our family miserably.

Recently, following an unexpected week of inpatient admission at an out of state facility in South Carolina while on vacation, we returned home to Tennessee and had five good days in a row, unheard of. Our family was so happy to see my son well. He slept when we slept. He was not up all night and sleeping all day. The paranoia and agitation had subsided. I had my son back for FIVE WHOLE DAYS and life was good. 

Then he began to self-manage his medications and the wheels are quickly falling off. He is once again psychotic and I am hovering.

The only way to get my son to comply with treatment is for me, his mother, to file a petition for assisted outpatient treatment. Tennessee does not have a statewide AOT law, but we do have an AOT pilot program in my hometown of Knoxville. 

There is one catch.

The only way the bill for the pilot program passed muster with our State Department of Mental Health, was to tweak it so that ONLY families could file petitions. That’s right, not the provider as with all other AOT programs across this nation. No one but family members may file petitions. As a result, and to my knowledge, only one mother has filed a petition in the 2 years the program has existed. Why? Because filing a petition puts families - who are sometimes their loved one's only supporters - in an awkward, vulnerable and potentially dangerous position. 

When I mentioned this option to his care provider in an attempt to reel him in quickly, he cautioned me that irreparable harm would be done to our relationship if I did this and that he could not support that.

Then I flashback to 6 years ago - to his multiple arrests and a tasing due to symptoms of his untreated mental illness - and I thank God for the court ordered treatment that resulted in a mutual agreement to keep him out of jail (which worked, by the way and kept him stable for 6 years).  

I cringe. Is this Deja Vu?

Must it take another round of my letting go and his subsequent criminalization to get him the help he needs?  Well, there is NO WAY I am willing to allow these natural consequences to repeat themselves. Why don't I let him hit rock bottom again?  Because there is no rock bottom for kids like mine.  He just might not survive this time around.

So here I remain hovering ... and blogging ... tired and weary of a broken system that offers no relief. #TB4T

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