Morning Zen Guest Blog Post ~ *Jammie Farish ~
It was a cold blustery day in Oregon, and I sat alone in my car in the parking lot of our local Walmart store waiting. There was red suitcase in my trunk filled with new sweatpants, sweatshirts, t-shirts and toiletries, everything that the treatment center would allow. Thoughts were racing through my head on the battered wings of hope. Maybe I won’t have to worry every time the phone rings or if it is raining outside. With each bite of food I take at a meal or driving along the streets, my eyes dart around trying to find him. I hope this is his bottom, and he is ready.
I’m nervous because he hasn’t checked in, and he should have been here at our meeting spot over 45 minutes ago. I feel my hope dimming, my anger rises as I think to myself “well there you go again”. But I can’t give up; I have to keep trying, the suitcase is packed, the residential treatment center is waiting, it is cold outside, he must be hungry.
I drive around the parking lot one last time, and he emerges from the shadows, hood up and head down. His long strides make the distance shorter and for a second I can hear the remnants of “mommy, mommy, guess what Dreamer (his horse) did today…” I shake my head clear and hold my breath to brace for the unknown. I never know who I will be talking with or trying to help anymore. As he opens the car door and gets in I can see his face. He is bloody; nose broken, black eye, he has paper towels stuck up each nostril in a failed attempt to slow the flow from his nose. The eyes of a desperate mother quickly scan his body from the top of his battered head to the bottom of his splattered, dirty pants. He is rambling, and I can’t tell if he is high again on drugs or paranoid due to his mental illness.
He tells me he was jumped by his friends; they stole everything. In my mind I’m thinking how this could be a good thing, you know add to the whole “bottom” he is experiencing. I also think I have clearly entered an irrational and alternate reality to find a situation like this a “good thing”. I fight my emotions to remain clear headed, non-emotional, focused and driven.
I start to hear the words I dread, He doesn’t want to go to treatment, he wants revenge; he wants his stuff back, and they need to pay. “Fuck you bitch, you don’t even care about your own son!” he yells out while I stubbornly keep driving toward the destination of hope – treatment. This is my beautiful blond, curly haired boy who lives for his horses; this is my partner in crime dirt bike riding, camping and laughing together. He loves his mom I repeat over and over to myself. Please God, please.
He takes my phone and starts communicating with people about what happened. I look over, and he yells at me to “stop reading his stuff, quit spying on me, you can’t be trusted; none of you can be trusted!” I couldn’t read that far away if I tried. He is paranoid – I keep driving. One and a half hours…. one hour … he is mumbling to himself and cussing at me. I’m not going; I’m not going to this fucking treatment, and I’m going to get a gun and kill those…….” I’m praying and driving. At one point he is grabbing my arm yelling, and I have to pull over. He jumps out of the car, and I drive away far enough to not be seen. Eventually, he calms down and calls me. He says he is ready to go tomorrow.
I call my friend and colleague who lives in the area, and we make plans to stay overnight and try to get him there in the morning. I manage to get him into the shower; I wonder how long it’s been since he has had one. I look at my precious son, the son who reflects my own father. Eventually, he emerges from the bathroom clean and rambling on and on. He is thin, too thin. His 6 ft. plus frame is skin and bones. Gaunt, haunted eyes stare back at me briefly before surveying the room where we would be staying. I could see the rash all over his arms from the Methamphetamines – my worst nightmare as he had a history of psychosis even as a young child. He is 18; he can walk out of the treatment center at any time, I have no power over the choice he will have in the morning. Breathe, just breathe.
The next morning we drive the rest of the distance to YES House, the wonderful treatment facility where he will go. I remind him that here in this place, they can’t restrain or seclude him. He won’t be traumatized like he was in all his other experiences as a younger child. He is afraid, angry, tired and hurt, but travels the rest of the distance and climbs the stairs for intake.
Assisted Outpatient Treatment and the impassioned pleas of Legislators, advocates and consumers. You can review the data, the history and anecdotal stories for both sides of this argument. When I wrote about my experiences as a mother the first time and my opinion on this issue, I found myself straddling both sides of the river. The desperate mother who wants her son to stay alive, to not kill himself and the advocate for human rights. Do I think AOT is the answer for the mentally ill, or is this really a societal issue based on the different values American’s place on the people who live here? The truth is our society continues to throw away our mentally ill every day. Prisons, homelessness and completed suicides are the status quo for this population, even the very people who fought to keep this country free. I don’t have any magic answers, but I do ask each of you this – don’t forget about this mom and this son here, because we are just one story of many all over the nation who are fighting to keep their loved ones alive. Stand up and make a promise – commit to finding solutions instead of fighting against each other, because it will take all of us working together to shift how the U.S. cares for and helps this population and the families that love them.
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Jammie Farish, Youth M.O.V.E. (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience) Oregon – Jammie Farish is the Training and Development Director for Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon. In 2009, Jammie worked with Martin Rafferty and Lisa Moody to found Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon and establish it as an independent, youth-driven organization that has had a sizeable impact at both the local and state levels. Motivated by her journey in the mental health system with her son, Jammie left the world of Special Education with the school district to pursue work in the field of peer services and advocacy. This experience led to her professional pursuits as a Family and Youth Advocate dedicated to system of care reform, community-based wraparound services, and peer delivered services, advocacy, and more. For her work, she has been awarded Oregon Mental Health Award of Excellence and the Children’s Mental Health Advocate of the Year (Oregon Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry).