| Family Diary |

Meltdown: Chapter 6

Mashiach is coming now, and he’ll make me all better! In a few hours I won’t have ASD anymore


“Ma, I don’t think Chezky slept much last night. He was still up when I went to bed.”

Ouch. It was six a.m., and I hadn’t had my coffee yet. My brain struggled to compute this info. It did not sound good. My oldest daughter goes to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, so if Chezky was still up then….

I went to the (always locked) cabinet where we keep Chezky’s meds. Since he was young, he was never able to fall asleep on his own, and we’d traveled the path from melatonin to other meds, finally finding a mild anti-depressant that did the trick.

Had I forgotten to give him his medicine last night? That would explain the insomnia. But no, Tuesday night’s box was empty. I walked down the hall to his room, sure I’d find him conked out from an all-nighter.

Instead, he was writing something at his desk. He greeted me with a wan face, but a huge smile. “Mommy, I know Mashiach is coming today. I just know it! I’m writing him a letter to ask him to send a refuah sheleimah to all those in our family who need it!”

What a heart Chezky had. Always davening for others, always connecting to Hashem. But practicalities shoved those thoughts aside. “Why are you up so early, Chez? Did you sleep?”

“I couldn’t sleep, because I was too excited! We need to go out right now and buy me a new suit to wear when Mashiach comes today!”

“Umm, Chez, it’s six a.m. Let’s get dressed for the day, and then we can talk.”

I eased his door closed, and feeling sick in the pit of my stomach, dashed to the phone to call Becky, Chezky’s psychiatrist. Becky was an angel of a woman who somehow managed to combine professionalism with true empathy. And she always answered the phone in an emergency, like now.

“The whole night? With his meds? That’s odd.” Her voice was controlled, but I knew her well enough to know she was concerned.

“Can I send him to school today?” The image of the eerie excitement in his eyes as I recalled our morning conversation made me really uneasy to be alone with him all day.

“Tell the teacher that he’ll be tired, and be available by phone.” (Nothing new with that one.)

But by the time Chezky came home in the afternoon, he was more wired than tired.

“I told the rebbi and all my friends to be ready. Be ready!” his voice rose in a singsong. “Mashiach is coming today, we need to get ready!” He began racing around the dining room, gathering siddurim, holding them awkwardly in one hand as he raced to the leichter cabinet to take those as well.

“Okay, Chez, hold it, cool it.” I dashed between him and the candelabra. “If Mashiach is coming we need to pack properly so we don’t forget anything.”

He paused, hand extended over my head (when had he gotten so much taller than me?).

“So you’ll help me pack?” he said, eyes twitching warily, determined not to let his mission be thwarted.

“Sure.” I spoke softly, almost crooning. “Let’s go to the machsan to find the perfect suitcase.”

With that two-second distraction, I ran to fetch my husband and to call Becky.

“You have any valium in the house?” Becky asked. “Give him two.”

But Chezky wasn’t anyone’s dummy. “I don’t take meds at this time of day.” He wiggled away from my outstretched hand with the two pills. “Mashiach is coming now, and he’ll make me all better! In a few hours I won’t have ASD anymore. I’ll be all fixed, and I won’t need any medicine! Maybe I’ll even be the Kohein Gadol!” His voice was rising in a frenzy. My whole body was frozen with fear. It was petrifying to see him morph this way in front of my eyes.

I don’t know what my husband and I said, but we managed to get Chezky to take the pills. I held my breath, hoping 20 more seconds, two more minutes, another few minutes, and the pills will kick in, he’ll calm down; it’ll all be okay.

But Chezky was dragging all our suitcases into the dining room. The other kids came running trying to see what the commotion was about. “Are we moving? What’s going on?”

“Mashiach is here!” announced Chezky, throwing a full-sized suitcase to the ceiling in glee. “I AM MASHAICH!”

Any semblance of normal life ceased to exist from that moment on.

Chezky didn’t sleep that night at all. Nor the next. Becky prescribed stronger meds. But nothing seemed to work. His frenzy rose to greater heights as he frantically tried to leave the house, to go out to the street and blow his shofar and announce his destiny.

During the day we followed his every move, guarding the front door, guarding the other kids. My husband is a big, tall guy, but insanity has its own superhuman strength. The nights were even worse. We barricaded the front door with the couch, scared that with fewer people around he would be able to slip out unnoticed. My husband and I took shifts, staying wide awake to keep an eye on him. For his part, he was becoming more and more agitated, ranting at us, “You’re reshaim! You’re preventing the world from greeting Mashiach! You’re killing people by preventing me from saving the world!”

Within a few days, we were not functioning at all. Becky suggested we take Chezky to the psychiatric ER. Part of me was appalled at how quickly I agreed. But the situation was untenable, and I knew I couldn’t take responsibility, not for Chezky nor for anyone he could hurt along the way. Despite it being midnight, we didn’t want to wait, and we managed to get Chezky into the car. We sped off, leaving the other kids shellshocked behind us.

“Are we going to pick up my donkey?” Chezky shouted from the back seat. “It has to be white! I need a white donkey!”

The road was pitch black, and I was falling, falling into a black hole, far deeper than night could ever be. Help us, Hashem! Help us get him help. Help us get through this nightmare.

The donkey demands from the back seat were getting more and more descriptive with every passing mile. And then suddenly, Chezky’s voice broke. “Why are we driving in the middle of the night?” he asked us in his normal tone, which we hadn’t heard for days.

My husband nearly crashed, he braked so hard. My head whipped around to stare at Chezky, who was looking at me puzzled. “Where are we going?”

I wanted to cry. I wanted to stroke his cheek, to say, you’re back! You’re here! My real Chezky! But I was frozen, scared, because the real Chezky had become a stranger to me as well, and I was petrified that in another second the monster would be back. I quickly dialed Becky (saint that she is, she answered).

“There’s no point in going to the ER now,” she said. “Unless he’s in the middle of a psychotic episode during admission, they won’t take him based on what was happening a half-hour ago.”

I was shocked. We’d come this far out of desperation, but there actually was no salvation waiting ahead of us unless we’d fall back into that Gehinnom.  We waited on the side of the road for a while, but Chezky continued speaking normally, and even yawned, clearly tired.

Drained, defeated, and completely depleted, we turned around the car. We were back on our own, with no one to help us. With nowhere else to go, we headed home. But we had no idea what awaited us there.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 843)

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