By Lisa Hernandez. The mother of a 21 year old son who suffers from Bi-Polar disorder.
I can remember so well the first time my son showed an interest in Music. He wasn’t even two years old, when he picked up drum sticks and began to play the mini drum kit my husband had purchased for his older brother.He would pull himself up by grabbing the end of the bed post and position himself behind the kit with sticks in hand. Then he would carefully hit each drum. He could tell the difference in the sounds. First the Snare with it’s tin ringing. And then the tom-tom’s, with their resonance. He loved the crash of the symbols. I would often help him by pressing the kick pedal of the base drum and the hi-hat. He loved the sounds!
I knew he was different from other toddlers his age. He would often wonder around the small apartment we lived in, in his own little world. He was independent, (I thought), there is nothing wrong with that. As time went by he began school. At preschool his teacher noticed that he was having trouble with processing simple concepts. Following directions, remembering what he was asked to do and in what order and so on. She didn’t think it would pose a problem for him in Kindergarten though, so she promoted him.
From then on it was an uphill battle with the school district and the school psychologist’s who when I had him tested for disabilities insisted he had none. Soon Came the Stomach aches and Anxiety. He was only in 5th grade when I had to have him taken to Loma Linda to have tests done on his digestive tract to determine why he was having so much trouble with his stomach. It turned out that there was nothing wrong with his stomach. He was nervous all the time. His Pediatrician ruled out all “Physical” causes and referred me to a Psychiatrist. The Dr. I took him to looked over his school history and his medical records and thought that my son showed signs of ADD and also some school related anxiety. He began taking medication and it seemed to help for the rest of his school career. We were able to have him put in “Special Education classes. He had a great advocate in his Teacher Mrs. T! To her we are forever grateful. He even graduated High school. It was a beautiful God given moment for a child who had struggled all of his life thus far; He was last to stand on the stage and receive his diploma. He raised up his hands with his diploma firmly gripped in his right hand and the whole auditorium Cheered!
All of this time his music skills had been developing. He is an exceptional drummer. And an even more amazing guitar player. He writes all of his own music. Al of the parts are his! He was in his first band with his older brother, (Who is also an excellent musician), at the age of 11! The gift of music that God gave him is what has gotten him this far in life. But the biggest battles remain.
When my husband lost his job and we lost our insurance, my son decided to give up being on the medication because he knew we couldn’t afford it. By then he was 18, and I couldn’t make him keep taking it. That summer he did OK for about a month. But soon he was sinking into a world of anxiety and depression. He was trying to self medicate by binge drinking and hanging out with other youth who were wild and running the streets. I knew this was happening but, I never caught him. To his older brother’s credit, he would let me know what was going on and that I needed to talk to his younger brother. He really looked out for him.
But, as time went on My youngest son’s symptoms were increasing. So I took him back to the Dr. office we were going to before my husband lost his job. We put him back on medication. Only this time the medication wasn’t working. Something new and more ominous had emerged. The Dr. diagnosed him with Bi-Polar. It was the worst news we could get! His illness became progressively worse over the next 3 years! He had a difficult time getting the right medication. He at one point road his bicycle in the middle of the night to a psychiatric facility about 10 miles from our house, because he was suicidal and he didn’t want to worry me.
He was also afraid of his dad and brother judging him. They tended to make light of his illness because none of us fully understood it. This was the beginning of his stay in and out of hospitals. This lasted until we could get his meds balanced out. In and out he went. Sometimes driven by his brother after a psychotic episode, locked in the bathroom. Another time with my husband and I in the car with him on the way to the Lab to have blood work done; He had tried to jump out of the car while we were going down an off ramp from the freeway. All The while during his suffering he would cry out to God for relief. With me by his side, crying out to God in silence to release him from this mental prison that he could not escape.
But the music kept coming through him. And continues to come through him. The gift that God gave him as a way to cope with this illness. And what a gift. He has been doing well as of lately. Although he is definitely unable to hold a job. He is trying to qualify for disability. He try’s to live as normal a life as possible all things considered. I have to say; He is my hero. He is so resilient and brave. He never gives up. and he always has a heart to help others. He had been on two mission trips and was a teachers aide in high school to the severely handy caped kids. He had a reputation around campus as the protector of those who were unable to protect themselves. I am very proud of him. I will always fight at his side to help him.
And thankfully, since my husband and I took the “Family To Family” class that is offered through NAMI, so will my Husband. We are a team. We hope that his story and his gift for music will be used to help others who suffer. We pray that God will lift him up to a place where he can give a voice to those unable to speak for them selves. And His father and I have pledged to always keep a place for him in our home. A safe place to retreat from the world if necessary. We look forward to hearing the music as he writes and sings and we have the privilege of overhearing the process of the Beautiful music that comes from his heart.