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My Son, Committed

My Son, Committed

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Published by GCoatsworth
In the third installment of “Bipolar Planet,” Gabi Coatsworth recalls visiting her son in a mental institution.
In the third installment of “Bipolar Planet,” Gabi Coatsworth recalls visiting her son in a mental institution.

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Published by: GCoatsworth on Aug 17, 2011
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Bipolar PlanetMy Son, Committed
 In the third installment of ³Bipolar Planet,´ Gabi Coatsworthrecalls visiting her son in a mental institution.
Cedarcrest. It sounded so restful. I pictured it, in the green area west of Hartford, a place wheremy son Jason would be able to regroup. Lord knows, he needed the sleep. He¶d been awake for 72 hours straight until the staff at Hartford Hospital had shot him with enough sedatives to fell anox, and he¶d crashed into unconsciousness.Jason had just been diagnosed as manic and therefore bipolar, which explained why he had beentalking non-stop and fizzing with unnatural energy since I¶d tracked him down earlier that day.My own adrenaline levels had risen with each hour that passed, until now I knew someone wouldtake care of him. Now he was being forcibly committed to a mental hospital where he could poseno ³threat to himself or to others´.³There¶s no point in you waiting around. He¶s going to be asleep for quite a while,´ explainedthe social worker at Hartford Hospital. We¶ll transfer him to Cedarcrest, - our mental healthfacility - sometime later today, when we have an ambulance free´.³When will they let me see him?´ I asked her.³You¶ll have to call the hospital. They may want to keep him in isolation for a few days to gethim stabilized, but you should call them tomorrow.´I felt a guilty wave of relief wash over me. Thank God, I¶d be off the hook for a bit. It wasn¶tgood that Jason was locked up in a loony bin, but at least he was safe. I¶d have time to organizethings at home, make dinner, help our two younger boys with homework and talk to Jay aboutwhat we should do next.When Jason came out in a few days, we¶d have his living arrangements sorted out and get him anew start. I drove home, feeling more optimistic than I had since Jason had first started to actweird. Was that only a week ago?Cedarcrest brought me down to earth ±fast - when I called the next day to find out how he wasdoing. The operator wouldn¶t tell me anything. ³You need permission from the patient,´ she said.³So he
a patient here?´ I asked.
³I can¶t confirm that.´ she said. I racked my brains.³If, hypothetically, you had a newly admitted bipolar patient,´ I suggested carefully, ³whichward would he be on?´Apparently, the operator felt able to tell me this so I asked her to put me through. When Ireached the desk, I asked if a patient called Jason could please phone his mother.³We can¶t confirm that,´ they said. I rung off, frustrated and close to tears.But someone did give Jason the message, because he called two days later. He sounded asthough he were talking from somewhere deep underwater.³Get me out of here, Mom,´ he slurred.³Of course, darling,´ I lied, willing myself to smile so that he wouldn¶t hear the duplicity in myvoice. ³But you¶ll have to give permission for me to talk to the nurses or I can¶t do anything. Canyou get one of them to come to the phone?´The nurse told me that I would be able to see Jason in a few days if he behaved himself. Behavedhimself? What did they mean? He wasn¶t violent, just a little crazy.³Your son has a few problems,´ he explained. ³First, he¶s in the midst of a manic episode. Andof course, he¶s suffering withdrawal symptoms from a number of drugs.´I seemed to be having trouble breathing. Manic
a drug addict? I took a deep breath andsquared my shoulders. ³So, when can I see him?´³Why don¶t you call in a few days time?´I called every day. Three days later, they told me I could visit him. Jason phoned me when hefound out.³You¶re coming to take me home, right?´ He sounded better.³Not today, darling,´ I said. ³I¶m just visiting today. But soon.´I waited for him to explode. But all he said was:³So can you bring me a six pack of Coke, some shoes, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a change of clothes. And maybe some Cadbury¶s chocolate?´I understood his asking for chocolate. He¶d loved Cadbury¶s ever since he¶d been little. Butshoes?³Shoes?´
³Yeah. They¶ve given me some socks. I might have some shoes at your house.´³Okay,´ I said, already planning my visit to the mall, to buy him clothes.I drove through the gates the following day, and my heart sank as I surveyed the daunting red brick façade ahead of me. It looked like an Art Deco factory, only less welcoming. In a kind of cage to one side, some unkempt people were hanging out, smoking cigarettes. Did they keep the patients caged up? Pushing the thought aside, I headed for the front door, clutching my plastic bag of gifts.At the front desk, they made me fill out a form and show my ID before giving me directions tothe ward. I felt completely alone as I heard only my footsteps echoing in the silent and desertedcorridors. I passed doors with wire reinforced small glass windows and big locks. I reachedJason¶s ward and rang the bell, my heart beginning to pound and my palms damp as I wonderedwhat lay ahead of me.The intercom next to me buzzed: ³Yes?´³I¶m Jason¶s mom,´ I said, and they buzzed again to let me through.³I¶ll take that,´ said the nurse, lifting the plastic bag from my hand before I had a chance to protest. She tipped the contents out on the desk.³Contraband,´ she said, picking up the six bottles of Coke.³Contraband,´ she said again, looking critically at the leather belt threaded through the chinos.³Contraband,´ she repeated, lifting up the pair of brogues.She looked up and saw my expression of bewilderment. ³Bottles are weapons, the belt,´ (she passed a finger across her throat in a meaningful way) ³and laces -- same thing.´ She swept themall back into the bag. ³I¶ll give these back when you leave.´Her voice softened as she saw my expression. ³He¶s allowed sweat pants, Adidas slip-on slides,and cans of Coke. You¶ll get the hang of it,´ she said.I don¶t want to get the hang of it, I wanted to scream. I want it all to be like it was before. But Iknew that wasn¶t possible. Jason had to stay here if he had any chance of being cured.³Shall we go and find him?´ The nurse interrupted my thoughts. I nodded, dumbly.She walked me along to his room. ³He¶s still in isolation,´ she said, ³but he¶s almost ready to join the rest of the patients.´

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