I’ll love you in the good times. I’ll love you in the bad times. And, I’ll love you in all the in-between times.
This is a story about the love of a grandmother for her grandson struggling with mental illness. But, before we get to the diagnosis, we have to start this story from the very beginning.
My grandson was born on November 6, 1992. He was a beautiful little boy with the bluest eyes I had ever seen. He was a great baby and did all the things that little babies do. I remember when he said his first words and took his first steps. He had an infectious laugh that warmed everyone’s heart. My grandson was a loveable little guy who stole my heart from day one.
One of my favorite memories was when I would babysit him and his sister while their mother worked as a waitress at a local restaurant. Oh, the giggling from both of them still resonates in my mind.
My grandson liked doing everything that boys enjoy; riding his bike, throwing the ball and teasing his sister. He played tee ball, baseball, football, basketball, and was quite good at golf. He was a normal teenager with struggles that many teens faced. My grandson grew into a very handsome young man. He graduated from high school and looked for a job; little did we, his family, know what lay ahead for all of us.
I remember one day a few years ago when my grandson and I had lunch together. He looked at me and asked, “Grandma, do you think I have bipolar?” I looked at him, taken back a bit, and answered, ” No.”
To be honest, I did not know what brought that particular question up but asked, ” What makes you think you have bipolar?” He answered, ” Everybody says that I act like I do.” Now I really was taken back more than just a little bit by his answer. He must have seen the look of confusion on my face because he immediately began to tell me some of what was happening.
” Grandma, I get angry and then I get depressed. Sometimes I am depressed for days.” I looked at him and was really shocked because I had not seen that behavior in him. However, I need a disclaimer here. Being an older teenager, I had not seen him as often as I would have liked. Even though I did not see him every week, my love for him was always there.
As time passed, my grandson’s behavior changed. He was doing things he shouldn’t be, his personality changed and his anger and frustration grew. He needed help. But finding a doctor who would accept his insurance was difficult. And those that accepted it had a waiting list, which meant it could take weeks or months to be seen. Then the voices started. Voices telling him he would never amount to anything. Telling him he’d be better off dead.
At some point either before my knowledge or after, my grandson started self-medicating with street drugs. Which led to more complex problems. Of course, when he was feeling better for a few days, he would stop taking his medicine which led to erratic behavior and often landed him back into the hospital.
Two years ago, on August 29 my grandson jumped from a bridge. It was a ninety-foot jump. He thought the FBI was after him. He told me that it was either him or them, so he jumped. Very few people who jumped from this particular bridge survived. He survived with cuts, scrapes, and an injured tailbone. My grandson was hospitalized for a time after the jump. But it did not end there.
He would be good for a while, then like a cycle returned to square one. He was in and out of the hospital many times and left mental and drug rehabs well before he was ready. I thought jumping from the bridge would be the end of what was tormenting him but it was not.
Since that time the voices reared their ugly heads, bullying him into believing that he was worthless. Once again, the voices almost won. This time it was more severe. This time there were more tears and more prayers. This time, the doctors realized that he needed more help and a longer stay.
I will not share with you dear readers what my precious grandson did, but will only say that it frightened me beyond belief. When my grandson was in the intensive care, he asked me if I loved him. Of course, I said. “Yes.” He looked at me and replied, ” How can you love a failure that could not even take his own life.” At that very moment, my heart broke in two. I had to leave the small sterile room as tears filled my eyes.
As I stood in the hallway, Sister June, the hospital’s chaplain took my hand and we talked. I told her what he had asked me and his response to my answer. Sister June, looked me in the eye and said, ” Your grandson has a purpose. A job to do and complete. He is supposed to be here. God is not ready for him.” In my heart, I always believed what Sister June said, but getting my grandson to believe it was a different story.
My grandson is diagnosed with Bi-Polar and Schizophrenia. Although he is still in the hospital, he is improving. His doctors are working to get him the extended care he needs.
When we started this journey with my grandson, I read as much as I could on his diagnoses. Although I learned a lot there is so much I still have to learn. I know one thing; we need to do more for our mentally ill.
We need more facilities where all those facing any kind of mental illness can stay for as long as it takes to get them on the road to recovery. We need more psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, support groups, whatever it takes to help those in need. We need better health insurance that will allow those mentally ill men, women, and children to be seen by a doctor. Mental illness among children is rapidly growing.
We need services for our homeless population who are mentally ill and we definitely need to help our veterans who have served our great country.
We need to continue to accept our mentally ill family members, friends, and loved ones. We need to reach out to all those who might need a friend. But most of all we need to love them and walk the walk with them. When my grandson begins to put himself down, I remind him to change the record. What can you do to help those who suffer from mental illness?
As for me, I want my grandson to know how much he is loved. I want him to know that he is a wonderful young man with a loving heart. I want him to know that he is important and he has a purpose. I want him to know that he is not a failure and will succeed in life. But most importantly, I want him to know that I believe in him and always will.
So, I will end my story the way I started it. Zach, I ‘ll love you in the good times. I’ll love you in the bad times. And, I’ll love you in all the in-between times. I will love you forever and a day!