| Family Diary |

Meltdown: Chapter 7

Nothing in the world could have prepared me for that horror — that Chezky now thought I was the enemy itself


Roses are red, violets are blue, I am a schizophrenic and so am I.

I was in fifth grade the first time I heard this idiotic spin of the classic rhyme, and at the time my tween brain thought it hysterical. Now it played itself over and over in my brain, as we sat in the office of this famous psychiatrist Becky had insisted we consult.

“It’s really semantics at this point to decide if he’s schizophrenic or bipolar,” he said, folding his hands on his desk. “The issue is that you’re treating it by slapping more and more antipsychotic drugs on him, but his body isn’t reacting positively to them, and they may even be exacerbating the symptoms. What I suggest is for you to have him admitted to my hospital in Tel Aviv. He’ll be under my professional staff, and we’ll take him off all meds and start again.”

“Off all meds.” My voice was robotic as I parroted his words. I was beyond thought, pain, barely even noticing my surroundings. Chezky may have been able to go without sleep for nights on end, but the events of the last few weeks had caused my entire system — physical, emotional, even spiritual —to completely crash.

I could not fathom the concept of a Chezky without medication, even if he’d be in the hospital. Would I have to visit him like that? Would he be restrained? My body felt like it was flailing against a brick wall. Again and again, I’d be smashed on the harsh stones of this reality that seemed more and more painful with every new twist and turn.

“But he’s been a bit better the last few days. He falls asleep sometimes, and maybe he’s pulling out of it.” I knew I was grasping at straws, but I felt I was drowning in this maelstrom.

“Maybe he is. But that doesn’t mean he won’t fall right back into the rabbit hole.” The doctor’s voice wasn’t harsh, but it was firm. “Look, you came to me for my opinion. I strongly feel this is the way to go. Even if he gets better now, unless you’re willing to follow my protocol, there’s a good chance I’ll find you in my waiting room again with the same set of circumstances.”

He was right. We’d come for a second opinion, and now we had to figure out how to roll with it. Becky agreed with this direction. “This can happen during the years of hormonal upheaval. What worked for him as a child may not be working now. Within a hospital setting, we can focus on his needs without worrying if he’ll hurt himself or someone else.”

My husband was also on board. But despite the trauma of the last few weeks, a psychiatric hospital sounded worse to me than the house of horrors my home had become. Would they know that Chezky liked ketchup? Would he even be able to eat? Would they lock— My heart rose into my throat, and I choked on that thought. What mother would allow her child to be locked up?

Hashem had mercy on me. I clearly wasn’t ready for this step, and somehow Chezky had mercy on me as well. The next few days were easier, even as we were taking the necessary steps, making appointments and filling out the forms necessary for an extended hospital stay.

But as Chezky slept though one night and then the next, I began to breathe a bit easier. Maybe it was all a freak occurrence? Maybe he was really fine now, and we could put all this behind us. Was I myself being delusional? All I knew was that I was desperate to avoid this next step, and not stable or rational enough to be able to think it through clearly. So as the days went by with small increments of improvement, my breathing steadied, and I slowly began dropping the appointments and forms in the hope they’d become obsolete.

And when Chezky sweetly sang Ani Maamin during the Shabbos seudah with no mention of when, who, and how Mashiach was arriving, I knew we’d turned a corner. We’d merited personal salvation.

“Ma. Chezky didn’t sleep last night.”

The words plunged into my gut like a samurai sword. It was ten months since our last ordeal. Life was fine. Stable. As stable as any household with an ASD teenager. I’d recently accepted a new project at work. My youngest was going to full-day kindergarten. My oldest was making noises about shidduchim. Life was good.

But those words threw me headfirst off a cliff. Within days we were sucked into the maelstrom of mania.

This time Chezky was after Arabs, wanting to join Yad L’Achim, sure there were missionaries lurking under the floor in our dining room. He turned my kitchen upside down searching for knives (which had been hidden from the onset), and screamed about killing every Arab.

Within 24 hours I had the process for hospital admission running full force. But we’d been bumped down the totem pole, and I was pulling every string I had to get us back to priority. I knew this was my fault for not acting on this last year, but I still couldn’t comprehend how we’d woken up once again from fair weather to freaky storm, all within hours. This couldn’t be happening.

At eight p.m. the next day, I heard Chezky screaming from his room. I ran to see what was happening. Chezky took one look at me and leaped over me (Over me? Around me? It seemed like he literally leaped in frenzy over my head), down the hall, and out the back door. He was holding the phone and yelling into it, “Save me! Save me! I’ve been kidnapped by missionaries!” As I tried to approach him, his screaming intensified. “She’s coming closer! The missionary! She’s coming to get me! You have to come save me!”

Nothing. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for that horror — that Chezky now thought I was the enemy itself. When he was young he had night terrors, and I found it terrifying that I’d want to comfort him but he’d look right through me, not seeing me as he shrieked in his half-stupor state. But now — now he was awake and conscious; he was seeing me. But not me. I was the enemy. There was hate and fear as he backed away from me, calling desperately into the phone for help.

My husband picked up the other line and realized that Chezky actually had Yad L’Achim headquarters on the line! The dispatcher was confused; he did not know how to react to this phone call that was clearly desperate but didn’t fit his protocol. My husband couldn’t speak on the line for fear of upsetting Chezky even more. So he dialed Yad L’Achim on his cell, trying to explain the situation and asking if they could send an ambulance with a psychiatric team. I stayed in the yard with Chezky, but kept a distance so he wouldn’t do anything rash like jumping over the fence to the street two floors below.

And then, just like a year before, the fight suddenly went out of him. I watched his body sag, from in-flight to fatigued fright. He slumped onto the patio, softly sobbing. “Mommy,” he said, his voice so weary, “Mommy, are you there?”

We canceled the ambulance that night, but we weren’t waiting any longer. I’d learned my lesson and I was determined to have Chezky in the hospital within the week.

And then Covid hit.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 844)

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