That prison time you did. The mental health treatment you needed and never got:
It did a number on me, son. That time made all my other time seem like it was standing still. What happened to you, believe me, happened to me. I would wake up sweating, I would wake up screaming, or crying after a dream. I could barely think of anything but you. You stuck in the solitary cell with your illness and no treatment. Would I get a call that so many mothers had gotten?
I had the most important things happen in my life and could not be present for them: the birth of my grandson, my nephew's death, your grandfather's death, your aunt's death. Nothing could I do, nothing could I say that would put me squarely in the place where I was supposed to be — because I was there inside with you.
In 2006, I began my very first weight loss journey — it was time to take care of me. I wasn’t young, but society didn’t call me old. It was the perfect time, and I lost close to 200 pounds with a lot of suffering and work on myself. I looked amazing, felt amazing. You were holding your own in our community, but deep inside I knew it couldn’t last forever. Your mental illness was bigger than both of us. But in order to take care of me, I had to try to relax about you. I had to stop checking on you so much. I had to stop worrying about you so much. And so I did. I let go as my friends would say, and 'let god'.
The year 2013 came in like a warrior. It came with news that you were beating people up for no reason, that you were hanging out in places you had no business being, and doing things that were sure to get you in trouble. I gave you an ultimatum. Stop these things, and get back to mental health for treatment or you cannot come home. And you chose homelessness.
I watched as your illness grew worse on the street. Your paranoia, your delusions, they were deep and dark. I prayed ceaselessly for you but nothing changed. When the cops told me they had arrested you for attacking a man who was delivering food, I knew that not only had I failed you, mental health had failed you. They told me they could not force you to accept the insipid help they were offering.
I asked about a certain law that said if you are too sick to recognize your illness, a judge can make you accept treatment (Kendra's Law in New York State), but they said, “We have no doctor willing to go to court,” and “Just let him go to jail, he’ll get more help there than in the community.”
That was a lie. A horrible, horrible lie. After the jail, you ended up in the prison because you couldn’t do what probation asked you to do (just go to probation, report, and go to mental health appointments).
You in state prison is what really caused me to regain my weight. From 2013 to 2015, I emotionally ate. I went as often as possible to visit you in the first two facilities you ended up in, way way far from us, in upstate New York. I was thankful when you were placed in the last facility, where it only took about an hour and some to get to you. But the guards were horrible, making fun of you as they let you out of the cage, and the rules were scary and your life was diminished, even worse than what it was while you were just out on the street. No one could ever lie to me again, that prison would be beneficial, or “better than not knowing where he is.” Lie.
Tonight. I’m not sure where my son is again. After coming home in 2015 and being involved in a quasi mental health program, he has still refused treatment and I am trying to take care of myself. I am suffering from aches and pains I’ve never in my life imagined. And I still haven’t got hold of my weight. It seems almost pointless. We (he and I) are still inside. We are still in a prison. And until the mental health laws change to help families help those they love with serious mental illness, I’ll still be serving this sentence.
I look at a picture of me in front of Coxsackie State Prison in 2014. I’m in my own skin holding tight because I don’t know, truly, where you are.