| Family Diary |

Meltdown: Chapter 8

“This is the resident doctor at the hospital. You must come and get your son immediately. We are not equipped to deal with him here.”


“How can they just change their mind? They can’t just refuse when they’ve already accepted him! Chezky’s supposed to be admitted to the hospital tomorrow!” My voice was reaching panic. “I don’t care if they made a policy change today. Let them change whatever they want tomorrow!

“Welcome to Covid. The hospital refuses any new admissions as of 11 a.m. today.” Becky’s voice sounded more exhausted than I’d ever heard her before. I could only imagine the chaos Covid was having on her already busy psychiatric practice.

“Everyone’s scrambling,” she continued. “No one knows what’s going on from one day to the next. Meanwhile, they’ve informed me not to bother contacting them about Chezky’s admission. They will contact us when they are ready after Covid.”

After Covid? The pandemic was sweeping across the world, and I was supposed to hang in there until it ended? Schools were canceled, the kids were all home, and Chezky… well, Chezky now thought he was Hashem.

“I’m sending a gezeirah to all Yidden,” he boomed when his sister tested positive. “Do teshuvah, or I’ll kill you all with Corona!”

Locked up in a house with a psycho teenager takes a pandemic to a whole new level.

The kids were bored, antsy, scared, and always hungry. I was past collapsing, trying to maintain some level of order and structure in a home that was ruled by a psychotic deity.

Late one night (or was it already morning?), I was on shift, blearily keeping an eye on Chezky as he swooped with seemingly endless energy around the dining room. “I’m a malach, and I’m practicing flying!”

When he flew into his room and slammed his door, I slumped to the floor, my back leaning against the door, knowing that in this position he couldn’t get past me.

How much longer could we continue this way? I’d always been the type to push forward, to rise to the occasion and do what was needed. But now, my thoughts circled in a feverish haze of complete exhaustion… going nowhere. I’d lost myself. We’d become dysfunctional, and the other children were suffering. In a world gone crazy, the craziness of my own home was taking its toll on all of us.

Yet what other option did we have? What else could we do? There was no one else in the world who could take care of Chezky at this point, so somehow we’d all survive it, right?

Just then Chezky yanked open his door and I fell backward into his room, smashing my head on the hardwood floor. Talk about hitting rock bottom.

But the next morning dawned with cautious good news.

“There’s a small hospital north of Tel Aviv that’s still accepting patients into their psych ward,” Becky informed us. “I think we need to give it a try.”

I thought so, too. We were desperate. So desperate that I’d done a full turnaround from the year before, and the idea of a psych hospital now seemed like a salvation. Still, when we got there, my heart took a plunge as I viewed the barred windows and heard the screaming down the long hall.

Ribbono shel Olam, is this what we’ve come to? How was any mother supposed to do this? 

My pain was a physical entity, its fangs piercing deep within me. I’d thought I’d become immune to the emotions I’d been living with, but this agony penetrated my armor, doubling me over in the horror of the situation.

Chezky! My Chezky of the impish grins and the corny jokes. How had we gotten here? I was locking my Chezky up in a psych ward, and I was broken.

“Mommy.” He wandered closer to me, and his eyes, which had been so clouded with insanity the last few weeks, seemed to clear as he touched the tears on my cheeks. Then the psychosis pushed back as he said, “It’s okay to cry. You’re Rochel Imeinu, and your tears will help me be Mashiach.”

By the time they led him away, I wasn’t sure I’d survive the anguish of this separation.

Yet when we got home late that night, for the first time in months, I lay down in my own bed, pulled the blankets over my head, and looked forward to an unbroken night’s sleep. Someone else was responsible for Chezky, and I felt a huge weight lift off my broken body.

The phone woke me early the next morning. That shrill ring always sets up palpitations — phones so often portend problems.

“This is the resident doctor at the hospital. You must come and get your son immediately. We are not equipped to deal with him here.”

“You are not equipped to deal with him?” The shock of that phone call, mere hours after I’d transferred the weight of Chezky to more able shoulders, blasted me into a new reality.

“You’re not equipped to deal with him?” My voice rose. “He’s in a psych ward! Who do you think is equipped to deal with him? Me, as opposed to your staff of doctors?”

“Geveret Leibenson.” The doctor wasn’t fazed at my explosion. Goes with his territory. “Your son is throwing furniture and threatening the aides. We simply don’t have the setup here to deal with such violent behavior. You must pick him up within the hour.”

It’s a wonder I didn’t crack then.

My husband was on the phone with Becky, and then with askanim trying to fight the hospital’s decision. But to no avail. With Covid raging throughout the country, there was no one to talk to, and the hospital threatened that if we didn’t show up, they’d simply put Chezky in a taxi home. He’d love that. His own private celestial chariot.

Beaten and defeated, my husband left for the hospital, and I curled back up in bed. The other kids were up, wanting breakfast, whining and quarreling as another day of school-less life was beginning. But I stayed curled like a cocoon beneath my blankets. I couldn’t face them. I couldn’t face another day.

I was floundering. I wasn’t asking, “Why Hashem?” This wasn’t a question of emunah. But instead, my heart was screaming, “How Hashem?” How do I do this?!

Time passed in a vague blur. I don’t know how long it took. But I heard the crash of the front door and the reboant shriek of the younger kids as Chezky arrived once more back on our doorstep.

And despite my inability to function, I robotically got out of bed to face him again. There was no way out. There was no one else to take care of him. My family was counting on me.

But rock bottom had just gotten lower.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 845)

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