It was a dreary January Seattle afternoon. I’d lost my job helping my son, who’d suffered repeated outbursts of angst despite doctors, counselors and inpatient hospitalizations.
I sat sipping tea across from Martin, my child crisis system advocate. Martin’s eyes seemed kind. We discussed my options. It became clear that the Child Study and Treatment Center (CSTC), Washington State’s inpatient child psychiatric facility, was the only viable residential choice. State programs meant mounds of paperwork and procedures. As I said, “Let’s get the process going,” Martin’s demeanor changed.
“Do you want to put your son in a state psychiatric hospital?” he asked.
“Do you mean will I put my son in a state psychiatric hospital?”
“You don’t want to do this to your son, do you? I know you won’t do it.”
I sat up straight and put my tea down. “If you’re asking do I want to do it, the answer is no. But if you’re asking will I do it, the answer is yes. I will do whatever it takes to help my son.”
“That’s what other parents say, but when the day comes everyone changes their minds. No one does it.”
The volley of wills persisted. I started crying. Finally, I asked Martin to leave and subsequently “fired” him.
One month later, an angel named Doug was assigned to me. He filled out all the papers and sat beside me through the state hearing. When I broke into a dizzy sweat, Doug encouraged me not to waver, thereby securing my son’s place on the CSTC waitlist.
My son had decompensated frequently after my dreadful encounter with Martin. In May, hospitalized again, his CSTC opening arrived. My son traveled by ambulance while I drove behind with pillows, bedspread, clock-radio to personalize the room where he’d spend the next eight months. During the 90-minute drive, the skies opened up, as if my tears were splashing across the windshield. Was I that parent, I wondered, the one who locks her son inside a state psychiatric facility? Do other parents really say “no”?
Epilogue: This was the most difficult decision I ever made. It was also a decision that saved my family. I am forever grateful for the excellent help we received. My son is now thriving, in a good college, pursuing his passion. My daughter, son, and I remain united as a caring family, loving in that humanly imperfect way. I pray that other parents also receive the help they need to lead to good outcomes.