So yeah, my kid is sick. Sort of. He’s got a diagnosis, anyway. They say he’s sick. And he isn’t acting like he does when he’s healthy. The doctors gave him a prescription. I’m pretty tired of this particular sickness. I’m not even sure it exists. But I think it’s contagious.
I tell you he’s sick with some doubts.
It’s not really anyone’s business. It isn’t my place to air his dirty laundry. But I can’t stop thinking about it. And instead of this being about him, it’s about me (again). To a great extent, it’s my own judgmental nature that makes this all so hard. If, when the caller on the radio talked about having two kids with mental health issues (or learning difficulties, or food sensitivity, chemical dependency or any other of a host of slightly fuzzy issues), if I hadn’t thought, “Well listen to her. It’s no wonder her kids…She probably just needs to…” well then, I’d probably not feel so culpable for my kids’ problems. But I did. And I do. Judgment always has a way of coming back to bite me.
I guess it makes sense, in some respect. If my kid starts throwing up, I do immediately think back. Did I leave the eggs out of the fridge, or under-cook the chicken? Did I bring this on? But in the end, I feed them clear liquids, clean them up and let them rest. It comes naturally to me. And to them; their bodies go into a gear that makes them feel like doing the things that will make them healthy. They feel nauseated, so they give their stomachs a break. They feel tired, so they rest. And they get better. What a good mom I am. What good children.
If you haven’t had someone you love struggle with one of these issues, it’s difficult to explain it. I’ve gone through it quite a number of times, and my grasp is still tenuous. I don’t know whether to be angry or worried, sympathetic or resolute. How do I handle this sickness? Tough love, so he knows the real world doesn’t wipe the drool off your chin (they snicker)? Nurturing love, so he knows we’re there for him when he bottoms out? Do I enjoy his company or refuse to be a part of his time surplus? Do I point out that if he showers we’ll all feel better? Or pretend I don’t notice, so as not to compound his bad feelings?
Do I help him clean up his house, so getting out of bed it isn’t so horrible? Or do I let him slide into this abyss he’s creating and figure his own way out? Do I hug him and love him anyway? Or do I decline to associate with him as long as he’s feeding his illness?
Part of trouble is that his body and his brain have gone into a gear that tells him exactly the opposite of what he needs to do to get better. He feels exhausted and his mind says, “You need to take care of yourself. Go back to bed. Shower? God, that sounds cold and miserable, in Europe they hardly bathe at all. Dinner? What have you done today to burn calories? There’s nothing delicious in the fridge anyway. You haven’t done anything to pamper yourself, no wonder you feel like crap. Have another beer. Sure, you could call your folks, but they won’t get it. Nobody does.”
When I tell people he’s sick, I have the same feeling I had about telling people my mom was dying. Part of me knew she was what other people called terminal. But the voice of my conscience, my inner admiral, felt like I was being overly dramatic. Maybe stretching the truth, or not telling all of it. And I wasn’t. I couldn’t.