Learning of a son’s attempted suicide fills me with dread.

“I’ve never pretended to be a perfect parent, but the love I have for my children is much beyond anything I could have imagined… and the love I have for them is the closest thing I have in my life to perfection!

Most days, I’m just concerned about the mundane: did my child shower, eat well, do their schoolwork (if they have homework? ), are they ill, do they have lovely friends, am I doing “enough,” and do they know they are loved?!?

I try to keep most of my heartbreak off social media (no one wants to see that). Still, I feel compelled to share my story about some recent events to raise awareness about mental health and the critical need for MORE support in the health care and educational systems for our “special” children and their parents.

One of my children struggles more than the others, and he has required far more assistance and time from me over the years than his siblings. He has FSCD level 2 and, according to provincial/federal permission, considerable delays, qualifying him as a youth with severe impairments. Mental illness and behavioral disorders are not visible to the naked eye… These children tend to slide through the gaps, making parenting brutal and heartbreaking since we continuously witness our children struggle and not receive the help they require simply because they LOOK ‘normal’ and often act ‘normally.’ This is precisely how I’ve felt about my son for the past eight years, since his initial diagnosis. Those who know me well would recognize this fantastic young man’s name, and what an incredible young man he is — he is kind, loving, humorous, socially a spitfire, and athletic to the extreme!

Then there’s what’s difficult to believe:

He struggles to maintain friendships with peers and cannot focus on work at school and home. He also struggles to regulate his emotions. Has frequent violent outbursts, injuring himself, others, and property. It is unpredictable and unreasonable in verbal, physical, and emotional outbursts that last a few minutes to many hours. He is in the tenth percentile for executive functioning and has ADHD, ODD, CD, anxiety, and frontal lobe delay. Most of these are related to or affect his mental health, and I am continuously looking for new resources and arguing for anything I believe he requires because… who else will?

This is a part of my son, but his limitations will never define him, and I hope that one day he will be able to understand how much I love him, even when I’m sure my efforts to get him the treatment he needed caused him confusion and possibly agony.

The 1st of October is a national holiday in the United States.

Please understand that this is the FIRST time I’ve described what happened in detail… I’ve been hiding, holding, and keeping myself from digesting what I’ve gone through. I’m sharing because I believe it’s an excellent place to start sharing my story in the hopes of helping someone else and healing my own heart.

After three months in a family-support home through Disability Services, the day had finally arrived for me to take my son on a tour of the All-Boys facility, where he would be residing for the next nine to eighteen months. This decision was made with many grief, questions, and concerns because I badly want my son to live at home. Still, we need more aid, and he needs treatment to allow him to transition home to a family setting where our entire family is secure. This decision rested on me as his mother and primary provider…it was a BURDEN for many months until I could view the facility myself weeks ahead of my son’s tour. On my tour, I knew this was where he needed to be and would be the best option for him.

It was challenging to tour this hospital… During the visit, my son battled to maintain control; he was upset that he hadn’t been warned (although he had been), he was worried (because his out-of-home placement hadn’t been checking his prescriptions for over TWO weeks, and he was covertly stashing his meds in his bag!). That’s a separate story altogether!) And the majority of his feelings were expressed as rage, disobedience, and a reluctance to take the proper (and mandatory) tour that the boys who would be moving in demand. On the other hand, the staff was fantastic, and he hustled my son through the time as quickly as he could.

The following vehicle ride was excruciating. We had a 45-minute journey because I was taking him to a leisure facility where he could play sports for a few hours before returning to his family support home. The first half of the journey was peaceful… My tears were pouring down my cheeks, but I could HEAR my son’s sobs through his covered face and chilly body language. He was in pain and unsure of what would happen a few days later – the primary shift. Within the transition, we eventually found some things to talk about and some things to look forward to….we had some smiles (albeit slowly). Finally, we pulled up to the recreation center, where I breathed a huge sigh of relief when my son looked at me, told me he loved me and closed the door. I was going to pick him up from his sister’s swimming session in less than an hour.

That was the plan, at least.

I was packing up my 6-year-old daughter at home 40 minutes later, getting ready to depart for the rec center, where my son was and where she had her swimming lesson. I started getting calls from a “blocked number,” which I never answered, so I ignored them. As I backed out of my driveway, I became concerned about the number of calls I received, so I answered Bluetooth.

‘Hello?’

My son was sobbing uncontrollably, and there was a lot of noise in the background… He was not in the rec facility, where I had left him… Was it the wind or the traffic?

‘X’? Where have you gone? ‘What’s the matter?’

‘Mom, I need you to promise that I will be able to return home.’

I couldn’t promise him this even in the misery I could hear him in… I couldn’t tell my son he could come home if I lied to him. I pleaded with him for a few minutes to tell me where he was, but he hung up. He refused to pick up the phone.

Then I heard his voice once more… He called me once more…

‘Mom, I need you to understand how much I adore you; I truly adore you.’ But I’m no longer capable of doing so. I’m standing on a bridge about to jump. ‘I really like you.’ His voice was filled with uncontrollable emotion.

Let me tell you…just writing those lines breaks my heart and fills my bones with FEAR that I never want to experience again. I can’t think of a better way to describe it than full-body shivering, emotionally frigid, a dizzy, harrowing moment in which you have NO IDEA where your child is, TWO you know they’re in an emotionally volatile condition. THREE, did I hear my son say that?! That was just spoken to my 6-year-old daughter?!?! And FOUR….is this where he is?!? Is this the bridge I’m going to cross?!?

MODE FOR MOTHERS – There’s no time to cry. Tell my mother to contact my son. ‘Call ‘X,’ he said he’s about to jump,’ I said. Make a 911 call. The car should be parked in the middle of the bridge—getaway of here. Get ready to see my child… MY SON… How do I explain what’s going on to 911 while holding on to the side of this bridge in the hopes of finding my CHILD below?

I’m not sure how many horns I heard; all I remember is seeing my car blocking all the traffic and remembering that my daughter was in the backseat. But I couldn’t console her; all I could do was try not to worry, even though my entire body was breaking from fear.

A police car drew up behind me on the bridge even before the cops arrived, and I remember not knowing what to do but begging them to look for my son on the other side. They sprint across four lanes of heavy traffic, emotionally DEMANDING, while I call 911 and try to figure out what I’m meant to be doing.

WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SON?!?!

Writing this brings back all of the physical and emotional sensations I had at the time. This is HARD, and I KNOW I need professional help to understand everything I went through as a mother during those times… I’m not sure if it was minutes or hours, but I know it was a long time.

Over the following few minutes, I hung up on 911 and broke down with the cops, part of me was relieved that I wasn’t alone and could finally get help, and part of me was terrified because this wasn’t the bridge… this wasn’t where he was. I never expected to discover my kid there, but not knowing was even more unbearable since the thoughts that went through my mind were excruciating.

Was it too late for me?

Should I have told him he could come home and lied to him?

Was it just that he needed me to lie to him, and I wasn’t able to?

IS IT POSSIBLE FOR HIM TO RETURN HOME IF I FIND HIM?

In less than 40 minutes after I dropped him off, where did my son go… WHY WON’T HE ANSWER HIS PHONE?!?! And how far away was I from him?

Then there was the third call. ‘Only’ my mother. I don’t recall what she said, but I believe she said something along the lines of ‘He said he needs you.’

Then there’s… I’m not sure if he called me or if I called him… However, his voice was trembling, and he refused to tell me where he was. He cried and kept telling me how much he loved me and how much he had to do this, while I gently told him I just needed to know where he was and how much I loved him!

Then another person hangs up.

The cops made me pull my vehicle up the road for the next few moments… minutes or maybe an hour… I shut off my emotional light-switch and lied to my daughter, persuading her that what she heard and saw was NOT what she heard and saw… soothing her emotions by explaining that her brother was not going to die and that he had stated that his phone was dying and that he was jumping his phone from the bridge because he was angry with me. I let her see me smile, I let her see me be cool, and I let her see me be absolutely in charge with police explanations and so on. So, while my heart was pounding out of my chest and my body felt a pain that came from direct dread, SHE would be fine… but SHE couldn’t see it. I begged her father to bring her up, I begged my mother to come to where I was with the cops for the temporary ‘BASE,’ and I waited for cops to monitor his mobile to find out where he was. I had to give them a description of him…

Short brown hair, slight facial scars, 5’4″, 130 lbs., long sleeve white shirt, khaki jeans, white and grey shoes, grey Champion backpack, black Bass Pro ball hat, short brown hair, minor facial scars. It’s my child.

His phone was traced to a mobile tower at South Edmonton Common, placed right over Calgary Trail and 23rd Avenue.

A BRIDGE, and a VERY LARGE BRIDGE at that. Are you on the pier? Is there a bridge beneath the water?

A choice must be made… I HAD TO WAIT FOR MY DAUGHTER TO BE PICKED UP FROM SCHOOL. I had no intention of exposing my daughter to something she would never forget since I ran over there not knowing what I would find – happily, her father arrived, police gave him an overview because I couldn’t speak, and just as I began to calm my daughter in his truck, my son called. He informed me where he was, that he needed me and that I should get him.

The following several hours were a blur; the cops drove me to where he was, and it was a bizarre moment to meet the child I’d been agonizing over for the previous minutes/hours? The pain and terror, on the other hand, persisted… I believe it’s still all inside me, even though I know my son is fine and currently in a secure location. No one can ever tell me, ‘At the very least, he didn’t do it…’ because that doesn’t take away the worry that he would, could, or intended to… or would you do it again, and would you do it for the final time?

For everything I felt at those moments, all I can do is TRY to imagine what my SON felt – the agony, grief, uncertainty, sadness, horror, loneliness… How can you keep those emotions in check when you can’t control ‘normal’ emotions? Just thinking about how HE must have felt tears my heart… But I’m glad that the LOVE I had for my son was exactly what he needed and won out after that ordeal. He just needed ME, and I’ve always been there for him, and I’ll always be there for him.

GOD IS AWESOME!

My kid is currently enrolled in a 6- to 18-month institution that will give him a wide range of therapy and support before returning home.

Why am I telling you this?

Mental health affects many people, some only briefly and others regularly. It’s a daily dread for our family since, despite our ‘normalcy’ and ‘outward look,’ we love and are raising a special needs child who you’d never know struggles with Mental Health and Behavioral diagnoses the way he does. You don’t see what we go through daily, and as a mother, you don’t understand the anguish I feel as I watch my adolescent son having violent outbursts.

A hole in the wall, a shattered item, or even some bruises on my body from carefully restraining him don’t bother me. I DO care about keeping my SON and the rest of the family safe. There isn’t always a FIX for what goes on in a person’s head, and some people’s brains are wired differently. We are afraid of him being unpredictable; we never know when an episode will be triggered, why it will be triggered, or what he will try to do. I’m more concerned about what he’s capable of as he gets older.

It’s a beautiful thing to TALK about what we’re going through and share personal (and even humiliating) experiences about what we’ve been through to BREAK the stigma surrounding MENTAL HEALTH and what it entails! My son should have had continuous care for YEARS, but that hasn’t been the case. Our educational and health-care systems tend to focus on the disabilities that the EYES can see rather than the disabilities that the BRAIN hides. Yet, mental health can no longer be ignored. Our children need more access to better care… 24-7 care, crisis care, parent support, and much more attention on how to aid families caring for a child with this type of handicap so that NO PARENT has to go through what I went through just a few days ago.

My son is in good health. He’s here to hug me and to love… It’s only a 45-minute drive away, and it’s in a place where there’s plenty of aid.

My daughter is having trouble processing (and believing) my denial of what happened that day… But she’s well, and her school has offered to have the school counselor speak with her, and FSCD has scheduled additional Psychologist sessions so that I can have her seek professional help if I’m concerned.

I’m not in good shape. This is the first time I’ve shared my story, and it was pretty challenging to write. With so much going on in my life, this only served to dampen my spirits, and I KNOW I need to get professional treatment to heal and grieve. Yes, I repent; I didn’t lose my son that day, but the terror and sorrow I felt didn’t disappear because I arrived in time. The stomach-churning discomfort is still present… Even with my confidence in God and knowing how much love I have around me from family and friends, I feel like I have to go through this on my own. No one understands it, and no one would realize it until they had firsthand experience.”

Courtesy Sherry Oleksyn

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