Cleaning Out My Closet: Having A Child With A Mental Disorder

Noise In My Head

By: Cherlnell Lane


Clang, bang, clink, chink, boom! Loudly explodes through the silence, interrupting my thoughts. Peace has been at a constant distance in this house as of late and it seems as if tonight is no exception. I transfer from my bed to my wheelchair. The creaking of my knees gives a voice to my pain, as I wait patiently for the two seconds it takes for my chair come on and “race” to the living room.


When I turn the corner I am face to face with exactly what I thought I would be, a meltdown. My walkers are face down, tangled together, and my son is beating them with a chair. I saw his thoughts racing back and forth between the walls of his head like ping pong balls.


‘There is another name of that game? Oh, yea “table tennis.” My memory has been horrible. My mind has been so gone lately but not as gone as his or maybe they are the same just in different ways. He can remember more than I but I stay more sane than him. Is that the way you would say that more sane,  saner, sanier, hell, I didn’t know. We both are Bipolar. However, I have never been hospitalized  or as angry as he.’


“Hey, baby?”


Puff, puff. Smoke billowed from flared nostrils like a dragon in a cave. I remember the first time I saw that look. He was in preschool and usually a very funny, mild-mannered little boy.  But this particular time they called me down to the school, he was red with his nostrils flaring, little twists swinging, throwing tables and chairs. I was thinking, "What happened to my baby, why is he so angry?" The teachers wanted to kick him out. They said that he was uncontrollable. I pleaded with them and they let him stay.


Clang, Clang, Clang! Brought me back to real life. There is a moment when you are coming out of a daydream but you can't yet see reality. In that moment I was wishing, hoping, and praying that I would not come back to where I had left from. However, when my eyes focused there were my walkers intertwined, banged up, on the floor, and again being beaten with a metal chair.


“What’s wrong James?”


Bang, bang, bang, with the chair.



I bring my voice up firmly where he could hear me, trying to get his attention. He threw a chair. Boom! I flinched. He then started to walk back and forth like a bull caught in a cage. Only the cage was the inner workings of his mind. My walkers blocking my way to get to him, just like the voices in his head.


‘The voices were new to me, but probably not to him. I kind of figured that he was hearing them a while ago, but I didn't want to bring them up. I didn’t want to put the idea in his head and I guess, I didn't want it to be true. I remember the first time he told me. He was really scared. Like then I knew if I could only touch him, ease his mind, he would be okay but like the barbed wire around the State Pen his anger kept me away.’


Huff, huff, his breathing brought me back to reality. I could hear the rattle in his chest.


‘I knew exactly what it was, his anger.  His brain was holding his anger hostage because it doesn’t allow him to let his anger show. That is a trait inbred by years of watching me. Letting people walk over me and not saying a thing. Not letting people know when they have hurt me, in turn hurting myself and being abused by people I loved and trusted. Being the scapegoat when people who are down want to bring other people down.  I always turned the other cheek and he was there with a front row seat.’


Ring, ring, I’d forgotten that I had called the number to mental health. Since he has behaved like he should to go to the hospital and probably needs to go, I will make the executive decision.

“Hello, mental health how may I help you?”

‘Can you fix my son? Make him the way he used to be before the voices got to him, telling him how to live.’  I say in my head never letting the words leave my lips. Instead: “My son needs to go to the hospital. He is being very aggressive. He is throwing chairs and destroying property. I am afraid for his safety."


Bomp! Bomp! His fists go into the wall. Whew! I am glad that he didn’t make a hole this time.


“Okay, Miss you said would you like for him to go to the hospital?”


Time stops and thoughts race thru my head. Does he really Have to go to the hospital? Do I really want him away from me again? Away from home? Is this going to help or hinder him?'


I look up and he is still pacing.  Looking as if any minute he is going to run out of that door into the middle of “Chiraq” and become another statistic. That was one of his old standards, running away. He would leave the house and sometimes run out of the school.  You see, He is too big to be seen as the baby he is. Someone who sees him barreling down the street mad at the world might try to harm him, before getting harmed. Pop, Pop, Pop! Goes off in the background letting me know just how true that statement is.


“Yes, ma’am he needs to go to the hospital.”


“Okay well someone will be there within two hours.”


‘Great." I think then I hear it tick-tock, tick-tock. 'How I am going to contain this boy for two hours. Then another two until the ambulance comes.' I look through the pie window and he has seemed to calm down, somewhat. 

“Okay, thank you,” I say and hang up the phone.


I roll out of the kitchen with my “everything’s okay” face. I want him to know that everything will be fine but at the same time I want to make sure that he doesn’t think that I am making light of his situation. When I look up, I see his face and his eyes look tortured. The pain he feels is palpitating it's like the pulse in the room matching my heartbeat thump, thump, thump! It wasn’t fast but was steady and dang if I couldn’t feel it in my throat.  It makes me “Cough, cough!


“You’re trying to send me away?” James says.


“No. Mama is not trying to send you away. I just want to make sure you get all the help that you need.” I reply.


“I don’t need help.”


“We all need help sometimes James.”


“That’s all you know how to do is call mental health! I’ll just leave if you want me to go so bad!”


He jumps up and starts putting on his shoes. Boom boom, boom boom, boom boom, goes my heart beating out of my chest.


“Why don’t you go to Davon’s house?”  The words coming rushing through my lips.


There was a flash of remembrance on his face. 'He loved being with his friend, a boy in the building who suffers a form of autism. James and Davon were both wildly intelligent which made them perfect playmates. They got each other. As single mothers of special needs children, Tracy (Davon’s mother) and I helped out when the other one needed it. Now was one of those times.' 


“You and Davon could play with his Xbox.”


He sat there pondering the thought and I saw the anger slowly drain from his face. Then in a quiet voice, he said, “yeah, okay.”  I told him he could go as long as he took off his gym shoes and put on his slippers. As he walked to the back and accomplished his task I called Tracy. When Tracy answered I could hear the smile in her voice as she said hello. I explained to her the situation and she said, of course, he could come up. Even though we both knew the script of what to do whenever either boy was in crisis. I went through some key points before James made it back down the hall. I informed her that he was not to go outside and he could only have one sweet treat. By the time I hung up the phone James was at my side with a basketball.  I told him that he couldn't take the ball with him. He held on tight and asked why. I was sure that a storm was brewing but being quick on my feet I said,


"You guys are going to be in the house remember, that means that you won't be able to play with it."


Then I waited with baited breath as he said "okay" and put the ball back. On his way back he looked at me and smiled.'I held on to his smiles like the treasures they were. They were becoming further and further apart. They were like endangered species; when spotted the onlookers watched in awe as they take in what only a few people get to see.' I took the chance and reached for him. He came towards me and we hugged. I breathed a sigh of relief and smelled his hair. It had been forever since I was this close to him. I wanted to savor the moment, but I knew that it would make things weird if I hung on to him for dear life. So when he let go so did I and waved goodbye as he walked out of the door.


While I waited for mental health services to come, I took pictures of his room and bathroom, which were a mess.  I took pictures of the living room, and how he left it. I started to clean it up the best way I could. As I untangled the walkers, I thought about the first time he went to the hospital...


'He was in fourth grade and we arguing about something.  It hurts that I can't even remember what the argument was about. He screamed then ran into the bathroom, shut, and locked the door. I asked him to come out he said, “no.” I could hear the tears in his voice. So I stayed by that door and tried to get him to come out. Then he said the words that would forever change our lives.  “I am going to drink this bleach and die!” I used my mom issued x-ray vision and saw it through the door, the bleach was sitting behind the toilet, on the floor. I immediately called a neighbor who luckily was able to break into the room as James was putting the bottle to his lips.'


Buzzz!  Buzzz!


'That must be Mental Health.' I thought as I buzzed the person in. I called Tracy and told her to come down.  I took one last look at the kitchen and living room before opening the door.


"Hello," I said before looking at this little woman with a sour face. "Come in." The woman introduced herself as Ms. Thomas,  walked in took a look around and asked where was the client. “He's with a neighbor right now but they are on the way down.”


"You trust someone else with him like this?" She asked with a side eye that said either I didn't know what I was doing or I was lying about his behavior. I was sure neither of those things was true but to help her understand I answered,  "She also has a special needs son so she is experienced with what to do? " Ms. Thomas chuckled then sat down, began to take out papers, and then asked,


"So Ms. Phillips what is the reason I am here today? "


"Well, my son had a really bad episode this evening. He was throwing and destroying furniture. He couldn't control himself. He's in so much mental/emotional pain. I also believe that he wanted to just run away"


"You believe or know Ms. Phillips?"


"Well,  there is no way that I could know what he is thinking, however, I could make a pretty good guess that that is what he wanted to do. "


The woman smirked,  rolled her eyes, and said; "And how is that, Ms. Phillips?"

"Because he has done it before and this is how it starts with the destructive episodes. He gets a certain look on his face and the look on his face is one I've seen before. " I stated while crossing my arms.


Knock knock. I was never so happy to hear a knock at the door in my life. I was becoming frustrated with Ms. Thomas. I opened the door so quickly that Tracy almost fell into the apartment.


"Dang girl is everything okay?" I gave her the secret look, fixed my face, then turned to introduce everyone to Ms. Thomas. Tracy left and gave me an "I'm sorry" look. James and I went through the interviewing process that Mental Health has to determine whether or not James needed to go to the hospital. When we reached the end Ms. Thomas looked at me and asked what I thought should happen. I told her that again that  I felt that he should be hospitalized.


Tap, tap, tap went her pen on the paper. Just when I was about to say something about the tapping she asked, why. I told her because if he didn’t go to the hospital his episodes would heighten until he was somehow hurt. Like they always do.


"No one else has had a problem admitting him" I stated.


"That is what I mean Ms. Phillips. You basically keep using a method that isn't working. What do you plan on doing in the long run? I mean you want me to send him to the hospital but they aren't helping in the long run. "

Now I was mad, I wanted to know if she felt the hospital couldn't treat him, then how was I? Right before I was about to explain this to Ms. Thomas in a not so nice manner I heard. Scratch. Scratch.


James is playing with his car set. I smile because he's using the car with three wheels. Even though I kept telling him not to use it because it will mess up the track he insists on using it.  He says that it is his favorite one and that it's not the car’s fault that it only has three wheels. He would look at me with that smile and say, "That's what makes it special. " I look at my baby boy and tears come to my eyes but I dare not let them fall. I have to be strong.


I look at Ms. Thomas and say, "Ma'am I am sure all of those things are true but what would you have me do? I'm in a wheelchair and he's 5:10 and 350lbs. I can't stop him when he has crossed the line. You as a mental health professional know without a shadow of a doubt that once those voices in his head take over if I get in his way we will both end up hurt. Or at least one of us...  Look, I am putting together his application, to get the funds, to go to a residential center. I am just waiting for his doctors to get done with some testing. Meanwhile, how do I handle him when even you agree that James has issues that need to be dealt with professionally? This is what I know to do when something like this happens. I know to get him somewhere safe. So, do what you are you going to do? "


"Uhhhh. Well, I will send him this time. However, you have to make sure that he gets into a long-term program. " She pulled more paperwork out of her bag and began to fill it out.


"Sigh." I started to rub my head because by now I have a headache that is kicking my butt. I answer the questions and sign on the dotted line. Then Ms. Thomas asked me if I  was going to be able to go with him to the hospital. I told her no. She asked why and I said, “Because I am in a wheelchair and it won't fit on the ambulance.” She looked at me and said that the ambulance will be there in about an hour and thirty minutes. I thanked her and she left.


Zzzzzzz. Zzzzz. I hear it loudly but with us talking it was inaudible. Now it reminds me of a sleeping lion so majestic yet dangerous. I leave him in his relaxed state, while I go to pack his things. I wake him up as the paramedics are coming up the stairs. I tell James that he was going to the hospital. He looks at me defeated, nods then put on his shoes and jacket.  He gives me a hug when they put him on the stretcher. Click, click, click they seatbelt him in. Then they take him away, through the hallway, down on the elevator, and out of the building. As I look at him out of the window he looks up at me.


Pop,  Click. I close and lock the door.  


Click... Click... Click... I cut off the lights in the kitchen, living room and my bedroom.  Tears threaten to leave my body but I struggled to hold them in.

As I transferred from my wheelchair to my bed, I instantly hear his voice asking me to sing our song. So I did: "You are my sunshine, my lovely sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray. " As I sung the song the whole night flashed before my eyes and the tears came pouring down.  They fell for seeing my baby in various states; Twists swinging throwing desks, trying to swallow bleach in a  locked bathroom, and banging walkers with chairs.  For the visual of them putting him on a stretcher and locking him down. For him looking at me, his eyes saying save me and me not being able to do anything. I am crying from my soul, loud and dry heaving! And in the midst of that... "You know I always love you forever so please don't take my sunshine away.”