WHAT WOULD YOU DO? by Sherri McGimsey

Tomorrow, I have to go into a team meeting to discuss my son, Matthew, who suffers from schizophrenia. They want me to sign papers giving permission for them to start looking for a new placement for him. For my son and his beautiful mind. He has (for how many days?) been housed in a mental hospital ward, not the ideal place for your son to live but it’s the only place he’s been stable and safe for the past year.

After fourteen years of watching him suffer through depression, delusions, and overwhelming fear, (“Having a rough time“ — that’s what he would call the bad days) how does a parent do this? Sign their sick child away?

If you’ve never seen a young adult decompensate from schizophrenia, it’s like watching your loved one being tortured by his mind. You stand by helpless. Nothing you can do but love him enough to fight him to get the help he needs. I'm not sure if I’m brave enough to let him go after 53 odd hospitals stays, and five times tracking him down when he gets paranoid and does a walk-about. Will all the progress he's made, all the stability he's gained be lost?  

The only place they can find for him to live is far away. Too far for weekly visits, too far for passes on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, too far to cherish the few family moments this illness allows us. Moments others take for granted — to sit and relax, to walk the dogs, to just be with family.

Yesterday was the best he’s been in years. Finding a comfortable, safe, and caring place for him to live shouldn’t be so difficult. But it doesn’t exist — not for our children who suffer from serious mental illness.

So I sit here shaking and wondering if will we survive another calculated risk. Another shift that could send Matthew back into the dark of his illness. He fights the horrible betrayal of his mind, and I fight a system that is broken, and a world that really doesn’t understand the failure to help those who suffer with serious mental illness unless it happens to one of their own. 

I’m going to let this rest for now and enjoy the remainder of my day with our other son and his family. But tell me, what would you do if you had to walk into a meeting tomorrow and sign your sick child away? Would this broken system break your heart too?


Postscript:  I want to thank everyone who had us in your prayers and thoughts yesterday. You will never know how much that means when we're navigating the unknown of finding a forever home for our son with SMI. I would also like to say thank you to his team who has cared and worked to get him so stable.

I could not sign our child away.

There is no cure for schizophrenia. Stable is as good as it gets and I want Matthew this stable for as long as humanly possible. Sending you all thank you's, hugs, and love.

Matthew and Sherri

Matthew and Sherri